Russia & FSU

Russia is a Fertilizer Superpower, Too

05 September 2022
A few companies control world fertilizer supplies. The Ukraine War and sanctions may knock the Russians offline. That is rocking world food prices, and company stocks.

Fertilizer Stocks Have Soared on Putin’s War. Proceed With Caution.


Craig Mellow

Updated March 23, 2022 8:26 am ET


Haven’t earned enough on your oil stocks since Russia invaded Ukraine? You should have bought Nutrien , the Western Hemisphere’s top fertilizer producer, based in Saskatoon, Canada. 

Its shares (ticker: NTR.Canada) have climbed 37% in the month since Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation.” The Energy Select Sector SPDR exchange-traded fund (XLE), a proxy for Big Oil, is up a mere 13%. 


As big as Russia is in oil, it’s more critical to global fertilizer markets. Farmers around the world rely on fertilizer derived from three different natural resources: potash, phosphate, and natural gas. Russia and its satellite Belarus produce more than a third of global potash, and of course dominate in natural gas. Belarus’ potash exports were strangled by Western sanctions even before the war. Russia cut its own off by executive order March 4. 


Raiffeisen Bank Shrinks to Fit the New Eastern Europe

17 June 2015
Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International outraced competitors into Russia and Ukraine. Now it needs to rethink.
One More Retreat from Russia?

Foreigners over the centuries have found it easier to enter Eastern Europe than to extricate themselves from it. Vienna–based Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) is learning this painful historical lesson anew.

Austrian banks naturally leapt at the chance to expand eastward after the Berlin Wall and Soviet Communism fell. Erste Bank and Bank Austria (since acquired by Italy’s UniCredit) dueled Raiffeisen for market share across the former Warsaw Pact. But RBI ranged farthest and most aggressively of all, establishing itself as the largest foreign bank in both Russia and Ukraine, with the former as its top profit center.

Russia Prepares for an Endless Crisis

26 April 2015
A year after grabbing Crimea, economic stagnation is Russia's new normal.
Drawing by Renaud Vigourt


APRIL 27, 2015

A Russian analyst who has monitored corporate credit for the past decade at a Big Three rating agency in Moscow still maintains the habits of the go-go years,enjoying a steak tartare lunch at a plush restaurant just off the capital’s Garden Ring, but his outlook for the country is grim — and not only in economic terms. He worries about the official media’s increasing focus on a “fifth column” supposedly seeking to undermine Russia from within, and about events like the 35,000-strong February march in Moscow, encouraged by the government, that was directed against “internal enemies.” Such efforts to stifle dissent and rally support for the government’s policies toward Ukraine could metastasize into a modern version of Stalinism, he warns.

The Verdict of Global Markets on Ukraine: We Don’t Care

19 March 2015
Some analysts are negative on emerging markets — but for reasons other than the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

In this era of instant financial and economic contagion, a butterfly’s wing flapping in Greece or Thailand can send reverberations through stock exchanges in New York and London. Yet world markets have shrugged off a disturbance of potentially historic proportions during the past few weeks: Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea and the resulting revival of cold war–style tensions between Moscow and the West. “Except for the Russian and Ukrainian markets themselves, this is basically a nonevent,” says Melissa Brown, senior director of applied research at New York–based risk analytics and financial data firm Axioma, which studies equity and currency volatility around the world.

Ukraine's Oligarchs at War, With Each Other

10 February 2015
Billionaire Ukrainian governor Ihor Kolomoiskyis a two-edged sword for Kiev.
Will Kolomoisky Get the Last Laugh?

FEBRUARY 11, 2015

Ukraine’s Oligarchs Take to Economic Warfare

Despite his reclusive tendencies, businessman and politician Ihor Kolomoisky is trying to tip economics and diplomacy in his holdings’ favor.


By Craig Mellow (Institutional Investor)



The Price Tag for Saving Ukraine

12 January 2015
A year after Maidan, will the West pay to keep Kiev afloat?
Poroshenko Passes the Hat

What It Will Take to Save Ukraine

A year after Maidan, Ukraine is on the brink of default. Will the West stump up the billions it will take to bail out Kiev?


By Craig Mellow


JANUARY 09, 2015 (Institutional Investor)

Kremlin Cracks Oligarch Heads to Salvage Ruble

21 December 2014
Russia moves to currency controls lite to stop the ruble slide
Catch a Falling Currency. Photo by Andrei Rudakov, Bloomberg


Dedc. 22, 2014


On December 15 the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) seized the world’s attention with a dead-of-night 650-basis-point hike in its key interest rate, to 17 percent. The shock measure was aimed at stemming panic selling of the ruble, which had fallen by as much as 11 percent against the U.S. dollar in the previous day’s trading. A no less important — though less publicized — move came the next day, when Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev summoned chiefs of a dozen principal Russian exporting companies to his office to lay down the law on the ruble.

Putin Plays the China Card

30 September 2014
Putin wants to turn his gas pipelines Eastward, but breaking up with Europe will be hard to do.
Putin Wants to Pivot to Asia Too


OCTOBER 01, 2014

By Craig Mellow

On September 1, with Russian troops advancing alongside separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and the European Union promising one more round of economic sanctions against the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin took a day trip from Moscow to the wastes of Yakutia, in northeastern Siberia. The Russian president went there to celebrate the formal start of construction on the Power of Siberia natural-gas pipeline. This was no standard ribbon-cutting ceremony, though. For Putin the pipeline is an economic masterstroke that will render his country immune to what he calls blackmail by the West.

Russia's Yandex: Good Company in a Bad Neighborhood

13 September 2014
Yandex, the Russian Google, cannot escape geopolitics
Yandex Resident Genius Arkady Volozh


SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

What happens when a good company gets stuck in a bad — or at least decidedly out-of-favor — country? To judge by the performance of Yandex, Russia’s dominant Internet player, the country environment trumps.

Battling For Ukraine with Capital, Not Combat

23 April 2014
Russia arms rebels in Ukraine, the West fights back with sanctions. Experiments in a new kind of warfare.
Illustration by John Ritter


APRIL 28, 2014

President Vladimir Putin seized Crimea with forces loyal to him barely firing a shot in the process. He also faces little armed resistance in eastern Ukraine, at least so far, as he seeks to foment instability in the region, possibly as a pretext for carving off more of his southern neighbor. Yet the Russian president does confront opposition of an unconventional and asymmetrical kind. The battle for Ukraine marks a new frontier in international conflict, one in which capital flows ­— not tanks or planes — are the West’s strongest weapon.