Russia continues attempts to gain control over Belaruskali
On June 6, during a press conference in Minsk, the Russian Ambassador Alexander Surikov said he was confident that the CJSC “Belarusian Potash Company” (exclusive trader of “Belaruskali” and Russian JSC “Uralkaliy”) will be reserved.
Ambassador Surikov’s statement should read that the fate of the BPC depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions by Belarus, which were discussed at a closed meeting during the visit of Russian President Putin to Minsk on 31 May - 1 June. It is obvious that the main condition is the sale of shares in a Belarusian major mining company “Belaruskali”.
The recent reaction of the Russian leadership of “Uralkliy” implies its new owner Mr. Karimov was not satisfied with the response of the Belarusian partners and that he is seeking to gain more control over BPC (Belarusian and Russian stakeholders hold equal 50/50 stakes in BPC), which, in turn, will strengthen his control over “Belaruskali” (100% ownership by the Belarusian government). Recently, General Director of “Uralkaliy” Mr. Baumgertner said the main office of BPC was likely to be moved to Switzerland.
If the offices of BPC are successfully moved to Switzerland, the new management of the “Uralkaliy-Silvinit” holding will attempt to monopolize the management of BPC. In particular, a political argument – sanctions against Belarusian companies – could be used. In that case, the status of BPC as a sole potash trader will enable to control “Belaruskali” without its actual purchase. Previously Belarus was forced to shift the jurisdiction over Beltehexport company - subject to EU sanctions - to Russia, which means the company was sold.
Finally, a dangerous precedent, i.e. Switzerland’s joining the EU sanctions against 32 Belarusian companies on April 30, 2012, creates favourable conditions for some influential lobbyists to call for international sanctions against BPC or even “Belaruskali” in the future. If that is the case, Russia will have an additional leverage of pressure on Belarus concerning redistribution of shares in these companies.
According to Decree No. 221 of June 23rd, 2017, deadlines for the completion of foreign trade operations have been extended from 90 to 180 days for exports and from 60 to 90 days for imports. Delayed payments entailed a fine up to 2% of the transaction cost for each day of the delay, but could not exceed the total cost of the transaction. Most companies, when working with new counterparties, require a deferred payment for a period of three to six months. Due to the new regulation, violations are likely to reduce in number, so as the fines. Trade enterprises are likely to expand the assortment list due to the supply of new products in small lots, and the assortment list of exported Belarusian goods could expand, too. The new terms for completing foreign trade transactions would enable medium and small companies on the foreign trade market, exporters and importers are likely to grow in number and the geography of export-import operations could expand.