OP-ED


European Union has been working on the economy to become carbon-neutral until 2050. Russia is seeking to reduce emissions and diversify the energy exports. For bilateral cooperation, the “Green Deal” may be a challenge on the first glance, but these could turn into opportunities, said Florian Willershausen, BD Director of Creon Capital at the 9th seminar on the future of Russia-EU relations at November 2, organized by the Russian International Affairs Council, Delegation of the European Union to Russia and the Embassy of Germany.

Florian Willershausen, Director BD Creon Capital

Florian Willershausen
Florian Willershausen

In the EU some tend to think quietly that Russia lacks behind in terms of climate change mitigation, recent accidents such as the Norilsk oil spill may give even some evidence. But this perception is incorrect: Together with WWF Russia Creon Capital and Creon Group have been conducting a rating of oil and gas companies in terms of environmental transparency for seven years. This project shows a more and more open discussion of challenges, and the instruction of elaborated ecological policies to reduce the carbon-footprint.

At the same time, in Russia many experts sometimes tend to talk down the “Green Deal”, stating that there will always maintain a market for Russian oil and especially gas, since both resources are cheaper than elsewhere and available on the long run. But this argument is at least risky. EU countries are willing to subsidize the energy transition, so that higher energy costs are sufferable for private and corporate customers.

There are many challenges both sides must face.

Challenges for Russia

For Russia, of course, gas will remain an important export good to Europe in the next decades. But Europe already started significant investments in a hydrogen infrastructure to reduce fossils. Big oil and gas companies are now turning from fossil fuel merchants to green energy suppliers of tomorrow. For example, Shell has been replacing a gas-based steam reformer by a renewables-based electrolysis to produce carbon-free hydrogen for their Rhineland refinery in Germany – with the result of a drop in gas demand.

Some may say, that power generation on gas causes less emissions, than coal-based power generation, that is still durable in Germany. And that since coal remains strong for domestic and social political purposes, gas will stay forever. But there is no guarantee that electricity still will be produced from the fossils, once the coal power plants are shut down in near future of 2030s. This is a trend concerning not only Europe, but the whole world. The Israeli regulators are about to block the construction of a modern and a highly-efficient gas power plant by Siemens Energy. The Israel government switched to support only energy projects from renewables.

The energy landscape is changing dramatically and very fast.

Russia cannot foresee the regulatory sticks to come, for example taxes on pollution or custom duties for carbon-intense products. But Russian enterprises should be prepared that the future of the fossils is in jeopardy.

Challenges for the European Union

And there are also tough challenges from the “Green Deal”the European Union has to face.

It is naïve to think that all energy demands can be covered from renewables at the current stage. Or that all hydrogen to being imported to Europe must be “green”. With all respect to the “Green Deal” and the growing share of renewables in the energy mix, there will not be enough renewable-based hydrogen available in Europe. It is unfeasible, when the entire passenger car sectors will shift to electricity, while coal and nuclear power plants in Germany are being shut down. But instead of hoping to increase their gas supplies to the EU, Russia might promote carbon-neutral hydrogen through a jointly developed infrastructure.

This situation offers a perfect framework for synergy effects.

Framework for synergies between Russia and the European Union

Apart from the challenges, there is motivation by the financial sector to bring incentives in terms of cheap financing for green projects. The investors demand money to be spent in green projects, which gain cheap funding. EU green bond market is open for Russian projects despite sanctions.

European companies provide plenty of high-end solutions in the fields of energy efficiency, waste treatment and ecological monitoring, which are highly demanded in Russia right now. These solutions must be adapted and localized to the Russian context.

Russia can keep its role as major energy supplier. The country exported in 2019 more than 150 billion qm³ of gas to the EU, yet a very important an irreplaceable market for Russian gas producers. The “greener” the economy becomes, the more will the gas demand decline. So Russia must prepare itself to produce carbon-neutral hydrogen based on natural gas and LNG.

At the same time, Russian business should be ready to shape supply chains for clean energy proactively. This approach works very well, as can already be witnessed in Germany. The Russian LNG producer Novatek invests in a small-scale LNG terminal in Rostock, from which in short run the fuel will be provided to ships and trucks further downstream. For the next 20 years, LNG is the better alternative to diesel and heavy oil, not yet hydrogen.

The governments in both countries should encourage and support such projects also for synthetic polymers, as well as for the hydrogen infrastructure. Both Russia and European countries need to start joint research and development programs to produce blue or turquoise hydrogen, and not only green hydrogen, where the entire European discussion on hydrogen turns around.

Both Russia and Europe share the vision of a long-term climate neutrality, aiming to reduce harming climate emissions and to develop new value chains in green energy. This requires financial support also from governments and development banks. In this context it would be helpful to lift financial sanctions on Russia at least by a degree development banks are allowed to cooperate with Russia and finance joint “green” projects.

Last but not least, the energy cooperation can enhance the political ties between EU and Russia.

Recently, Germany declared an energy partnership with Ukraine with focus on hydrogen. Further partnerships between EU members and other countries are being set up. An EU-Russia Dialogue on green economy and clean energy is urgently needed. And the business demands a bilateral hydrogen partnership driven from the top official level. This kind of cooperation would be very fruitful and beneficial for both sides to fulfill decarbonization goals until 2050.

 



The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the global economy. And investors are “risk on” again. In addition to the pandemic currently sweeping the world the climate crisis remains in the background and investors are increasingly worried about environmental risks. Russian companies, in particular, are worried about being penalised for environment related issues and will have follow the Green Economy trend that is being demanded by retail investors, first and foremost.

The coronavirus pandemic has distracted from the furore created by Swedish climate crisis campaigner Greta Thunberg and her “Friday’s for the Future” youth movement. Nobody seems to care anymore about climate change since the globalization has stalled. People fear losing their jobs more than what the future holds — even on Fridays.

But appearances are deceptive. While governments around the world are busy curbing the pandemic and managing economic loses, a sophisticated green financing infrastructure is being built in the background. Companies, especially in Europe, which has embraced Thunberg’s call to action, taking their ESG (Environment – Social – Governance) responsibilities seriously and including it in their long-term strategies. This trend will not stop, and can be expected to grow in importance.

The pandemic has sharpened the senses to risks among companies’ decision-makers. Coronavirus has clearly demonstrated the fatal consequences of underestimating the risks for supply chains and the disruptive power Mother Nature still commands.

Banks, investors, and regulators re-evaluate risks that go beyond the pandemic. A World Economic Forum (WEF) report on global risks has linked nine out of ten risks directly to ESG factors, the most important of which are the protection of the climate and the environment. Financial players have started to closely monitor companies’ ESG policies.

While the world is fighting the coronavirus, Europe continues its efforts to build up a large-scale financial infrastructure for ESG investors. In 2016, the Luxembourg Exchange launched the Green Stock Exchange (LGX) – a trading platform for securities and Eurobonds of projects that meet 17 UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). Today it is the global leader in the “green bond” market, whose volume doubled to €216bn in 2019. Today less than one per cent of all traded bonds are green, but this market has enormous growth potential.

Investments revaluation

Large investors have already given an impulse to “greenify” the market, and the rest of the investing community is expected to follow. Last summer, the world’s largest investment company Blackrock banned all investments into the traditional energy sector. In October, the Norwegian pension fund Global sold its stake in Russia’s metallurgical titan Norilsk Nickel for environmental reasons: according to the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, the environment is suffering because of the company’s activities, and this violates the fund’s code of ethics (although Global itself made €900bn  from oil sales the same year). And Brussels has already banned the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF) from investing in oil, gas, and coal industries.

A this trend progresses more and more investors are expected to redistribute funds from fossil fuel producers to green-tech companies. Raising capital in equity markets for green and eco-friendly companies will become easier. Financial institutions will monitor ESG-compliance and make access to credit lines and bank accounts easier. In the case of non-compliance with these standards, credit and capital will become hard to get.

Classical energy companies will be subjected to the neoclassical risks. Why invest in bonds, even a super-profitable oil company, if it is exposed to non-ESG compliance risks or public scandal that could ruin an investment overnight? Neither investors, nor banks, nor regulators are willing to bear responsibility for serious environmental consequences.

Russia has no choice but to follow the trend

“The trend if your friend,” runs the old market adage, but in this case it is a trend with a twist. Falling oil prices have already created problems for the low-liquid waste market, which is still at very early stage of development.

The upshot of the low prices is petroleum raw materials to make plastics is now cheaper than recycled plastic waste. But the large petrochemical producers such as Russia’s Sibur and Nizhnekamskneftekhim remain committed to using recycled plastic in production, thanks to pressure from their strategic partners, customers, investors, and banks as well as their own ESG-compliance rules.

Many Russian companies are actively introducing ESG compliance strategies and officers. For an example, Russia’s major privately owned Lukoil oil producer covers 6% of its electricity needed using renewable sources – primarily solar energy. Shell plans to spend €2bn a year on development of alternative energy sources, and the Norwegian oil major Equinor will invest one fifth of its investment budget in renewables.

Russian petroleum companies are still far from these numbers, though they are already active in environmental protection initiatives. Environmental performance of oil and gas companies is monitored by Transparency Rating of Environmental Responsibility, which has been jointly conducted by Creon Group and WWF Russia (World Wild Fund for Nature Conservation) for seven years already.

The time for large investments into the green economy has come. Now is the time to develop clean renewable energy, reduce burning of associated gas to zero, and increase the share of recycling in the polymer industry. In the new economic order only businesses with a consistent strategy for sustainable development in the social and environmental arena can be profitable. This need has already recognized by many, not just Greta Thunberg.

 


Florian Willershausen, director of Creon Capital, managing Luxembourg-based fund’s company Creon Energy Fund, which invests in projects of green technologies, renewable energy and logistics projects. The fund is the core part of Creon Group, a strategic consultant in the transition to sustainable development and integration of ESG factors.


 

This text has been published on Intellinews:

https://www.intellinews.com/opinion-why-the-russian-economy-will-inevitably-become-green-after-the-covid-19-epidemic-is-over-183464/?source=russia

A Russian version is available on the leading Russian online portal RBC:

https://trends.rbc.ru/trends/green/5ea82ca89a79472db412c14a?from=center



Relations between Moscow and the EU have hit their lowest level in decades. But feedstock industry expert Fares Kilzie says the bloc’s current energy diversification attempts will not leave Russian firms stranded.

There’s hardly anyone who knows more about the German petrochemical industry’s enormous need for resources than Russian entrepreneur Fares Kilzie. In the early 1990s, he was based in Germany helping companies such as Bayer and Süd-Chemie secure petrochemicals from Russia.

After 2001, Kilzie went back to Russia and eventually founded the Creon consultancy helping European companies understand the Russian energy market. 2016 saw the establishment of the Creon Energy Fund in Luxembourg, which provides guidance for investing safely in Russia.

DW met up with Fares Kilzie in Berlin to talk about the future of Russian energy supplies to Germany and the European Union as a whole.

DW: Talking about EU-Russian business relations these days, also in the energy and feedstocks sectors, is a bit like walking through a minefield, following Russia’s falling out of grace with the West over its perceived role in the Ukraine conflict, would you agree?

Fares Kilzie: In my business life, relations between Russia and the EU have never been worse than they are today. But I have to add that we experience this bad state of relations mainly in Brussels, and we don’t see it in Berlin. Russia and Germany are still having a very constructive dialogue even while relations between Russia and the EU in general are in a bad state. Dialogue between Moscow and Berlin is strong, despite heated arguments being exchanged sometimes.

Russia has been a very reliable supplier of hydrocarbons for Germany all along, concerning both natural gas and oil. As for oil, Rosneft has been one of the major oil suppliers in Germany, and Gazprom the main provider of gas — maybe Novatek will become a third important player with LNG [liquefied natural gas].

I gather from your answer that you don’t believe the good times for Russian oil and gas suppliers to the EU are coming to an end. But don’t increased attempts in Berlin and Brussels to diversify supplies and thus reduce dependence on Russian sources tell a different tale, especially when it comes to natural gas deliveries?

When it comes to debates about reducing the amount of pipeline gas coming to Germany from Russia, I was one of those who expected that to happen even before the crisis in relations with the West started. I was in contact with German feedstock buyers, and they were telling me as early as the 1990s that they would have to diversify their supplies. So I know this approach very well. I believe it’s a good one, because risks have to be spread when it comes to feedstocks.

Many analysts insist Germany — and other recipients in the EU — could have easily done without the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. What’s your take on this?

Touching on the current Nord Stream 2 controversy, Russia in this project is only assuming the role of a technical partner, meaning it lays the 1,200 kilometers of the pipeline to Germany and supplies the gas, but any decisions beyond that have to come from Germany. In my eyes, the project is very important for the chemical industry in Germany. Parts of the industry are already migrating from Germany as there are at times not enough feedstocks for the industry. In order to create new products and jobs, you also need large amounts of gas at a reliable price — and you need it now, not in five or 10 years. Russia is offering this opportunity of getting more by 2020.

But isn’t it rather risky for public joint stock company Gazprom to keep focusing almost exclusively on its pipeline business?

In Russia, I’ve been know as a critic of Gazprom for exactly that. Many see Gazprom as the holy cow of Russia, generating a big share of the country’s income, so that seems to make it untouchable. There have been a lot of changes in Gazprom’s management structure over the past two months and there’s more to come. We’ve always said in the Russian media that Gazprom is inefficient, not using the latest technology and moving very slowly toward the gas refining business.

I never shy away from the fact that this sort of miscalculation could lead to trouble in the future. Only time will show how it will fare by focusing only on its pipeline business and not expanding its activities to LNG. But we’ll only have an answer to this in five or six years from now. My personal opinion is that they made the wrong decision also by trying to convince the Russian president that the shale gas story in the US would be ending soon — it’s not ending. On the contrary, it’s taking geopolitics to another level.

In the second quarter we expect to have equilibrium between the price for pipeline gas and that for liquefied natural gas, which is very good for the market.

According to the European Commission, the EU’s gas demand is around 480 billion cubic meters and is projected to remain stable in the coming few years before going down as a result of the bloc’s climate protection policies and the increased use of renewables. So, aren’t today’s investments in gas deliveries shortsighted anyway?

Let’s face it, gas is one of the most environmentally friendly products that we have at the moment, with relatively low CO2 emissions. It’s very easy to handle. We’ll see a lot more electrical cars in the future; we’ll see more wind farms and solar energy facilities. Right now, though, the German feedstock problem is that neither wind nor solar can replace the physical hydrocarbon to produce ethylene for example.

As soon as there are reliable pipeline supplies, the chemical industry will start investing. BASF (Wintershall/DEA) and others are trying to secure the feedstocks as soon as possible so as not to lose out in the competition with Asian or even US producers. Several million jobs are affected, directly or indirectly, as we’re talking about construction chemicals, paint chemicals, chemicals for the auto industry and so on. Half of any ordinary car is made of petrochemical components (polycarbonate, polyethylene etc.), so you have a wide range of products that are needed here.

Private Russian energy company Novatek is looking to establish a foothold in Europe including Germany where it aims to open a regasification facility in Rostock by 2022 – and this against the background of the German government having promised the US administration it would build two LNG terminals of its own to also receive American gas …

Novatek is also looking at the Spanish market, the Italian and Moroccan markets, and it’s looking to build regasification facilities in order to supply gas to customers, who have no access to pipeline gas. Rostock, with its long-term trade ties with St. Petersburg, can play a major role for the German economy. It’s a gateway to Germany. To have a regasification facility there, coupled with reliable gas supplies from Novatek to serve the German market is a nonpolitical thing. It’s only a small-scale regasification unit.

The Novatek activities in Germany can’t really be seen as a threat to any other LNG supplier because of the low volumes to be involved.

For 25 years, Fares Kilzie has been helping European companies doing or wanting to do business in Russia. He’s the founder of Creon Group, an independent investment and management association focusing on the energy and chemical industries in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Creon Energy Fund invests in Russia together with European technology partners.

The interview was conducted by Hardy Graupner.

Link: https://www.dw.com/en/expert-russia-to-remain-crucial-feedstock-supplier-despite-spat-with-brussels/a-48213356



White knight or grasshopper?

How private equity financing can help to globalize SME companies

Summary: Private Equity funds help small and medium-sized enterprises to finance growth by offering capital in exchange for shares. The investors actively support internationalization, which many banks are skeptical about. But not every medium-sized company should get a foreign master into their own house – the chemistry between the investor and the seller must be right.

by Florian Willershausen

European banks literally throw good money after bad. For three percent per annum, one would think, the savings bank laces a loan for expansion abroad. Finally, medium-sized company may target the internationalization that the globalized world itself demands from the screwdriver in Schaffhausen: the engineering office in Romania should have been bought long ago, in Poland a factory must finally be produced, and the devaluation of the Russian ruble encourages to produce polymer components for the auto industry at competitive prices dedicated to exports! However, if the entrepreneur presents these plans to the bank adviser, the disappointment follows immediately: if he grants a loan for internationalization, the interest burden will suddenly be greater than expected.

More than ever, German banks are cheating with globalization. If the expansion is to lead to Eastern Europe, the risk managers’ lamps turn red: sanctions, currency risks, missing government guarantees. Banks are slowing down SMEs on their way east. An alternative is to raise a private equity capital to discover new markets. Their willingness to take risks is greater than with banks: A coherent internationalization strategy as the basis for future growth can be a good “story” for such financiers.

As a rule, a private equity investor provides equity capital to companies for three to seven years – with no interest. His goal is to increase the equity value significantly during this period and thus later to achieve an above-average return with the sale of the shares. The increase in value is also the objective of the seller, presuming that he remains a shareholder in the company or its spin-off. In most cases, the equity partner provides support to the existing management, no matter whether he is a majority or minority investor. However, when implementing growth strategies – be it expansion, upscaling of the product line or restructuring – private equity investors are on hand with their experience. Ideally, the private equity investor is a “white knight” who leads the mid-sized company into a better future. In any case, no “grasshopper” as he has been blamed by European politicians a couple of years ago.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is controlled by Vneshekonombank (VEB) and whose fixed assets amount to around ten billion dollars, is particularly suitable in Russia. The aim of the state fund is to attract foreign capital as a co-investor in projects – especially if it flows into projects with a localization share. According to the company, more than $ 30 billion has been generated since its inception in 2011 by foreign co-investors. Among others, our Creon Energy Fund invests in engineering companies that design components for the local oil and gas industry in the region, as well as in the production of products and specialty chemicals based on oil, gas and polymers – precursors currently in Russia available at competitive prices.

However, such a merger poses risks for both the SME and the investor: For the owner of a family business, it may be difficult to closely align business development strategies with a partner. This requires a high degree of transparency, willingness to conciliate on strategic issues, sophisticated (and expensive) reporting system. Conversely, the investor is interested in understanding the substance of the company, risks and weaknesses. He is also obliged to do so by the regulator, which demands extensive audits and reporting obligations in the interest of investors and investors in alternative investment funds (AIF). Therefore, he sends an army of lawyers and accountants to literally turn every stone in the targeted company. Not every “patriarch” likes this due diligence.

Partnering with a private equity investor is like a marriage. It is advisable to get to know the other person well in advance, to check the strengths and weaknesses and, as it were, to regulate the marriage contract down to the smallest detail. This also includes the question of what rights and duties the shareholder has, under what conditions he can also take control of the management. In the run-up, the so-called exit strategy must also look like: selling to a strategic investor, another fund, the IPO or the resale. In this aspect, admittedly, there should be a big difference to marriage.

***

Florian Willershausen is a former business journalist (Handelsblatt, WirtschaftsWoche). Since 2016, he has been working for Creon Capital, whose private equity funds invest in engineering companies, oil and gas processing companies with a focus on Russia. Behind the Creon Energy Fund is Creon Energy, an established consulting and management company that is well connected in Eastern Europe’s Oil & Gas Downstream industry, helping to bring the fund’s assets to active management.

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN PUBLISHED FIRST IN OST-CONTACT, a monthly German publication on trade relations between East and West.