Vekselberg Chases Swiss Technology for Skolkovo

10 June 2010


Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg is seeking Swiss technology to bolster a Kremlin-backed “innovation city” he’s helping to set up near Moscow.

Discussions are starting with Oerlikon, in which the businessman holds at least 39 percent, Vekselberg said Tuesday.

President Dmitry Medvedev has appointed Vekselberg, whose fortune Forbes magazine estimates at $6.4 billion, to help create a Russian Silicon Valley to develop and market technological innovations in Skolkovo. Medvedev is seeking to cut the economy’s dependence on commodities exports.

“We want global technological leaders to set up their research and development centers there,” Vekselberg said. Russia may approach Zurich University about participating in the Skolkovo project, Vekselberg said.

Sulzer, in which Vekselberg holds about 31 percent, may also be asked to join the project, according to the billionaire’s holding company, Renova Group.

Vekselberg said he hopes that Russian-Swiss economic relations will be a focus of talks when Swiss President Doris Leuthard visits Russia in August. The Swiss authorities fined him 40 million Swiss francs ($35 million) in January for allegedly failing to declare that he acted with other investors in buying Oerlikon shares.

Renova is opening up the Russian market for European companies in which it holds stakes, chief investment officer Vladimir Kuznetsov said Tuesday in an interview. Foreign assets, including Oerlikon and Sulzer, account for about a quarter of Vekselberg’s fortune, he said.

Oerlikon and Sulzer may each boost Russian sales to more than 200 million Swiss francs ($175 million) a year, Kuznetsov said. Oerlikon may add 60 million francs of revenue to last year’s 160 million francs of sales in the country, he said.

Sulzer has supplied pumps to Transneft’s oil pipeline across eastern Siberia to the Pacific, while Renova’s Avelar Energy, which owns gas storage in Italy, may co-operate with Gazprom, Kuznetsov said.


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