Russia’s richest woman defends request for state help

23rd March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Elena Baturina says her request for state credit guarantees worth over a billion dollars was essential for future business projects.

MOSCOW – Russia's richest woman, Elena Baturina, on Monday defended her request for state credit guarantees worth over a billion dollars amid the economic crisis, saying it was vital for future business projects.

Baturina, the wife of powerful Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, earlier this month asked the Russian state for RUB 49 billion (EUR 1.0 billion, CHF 1.7 billion) in credit guarantees for her construction firm Inteco.

"It is linked with the realisation of our tasks in developing a private-state partnership," she told the Russian business daily Vedomosti in a rare interview.

"We want to build new enterprises like cement factories or home-building plants. We don't want to have to extricate ourselves or climb out of the abyss like the others," she added.

Baturina said such new manufacturing outlets were essential as the construction industry was finding the possibilities for obtaining construction materials in Russia increasingly limited.

According to the latest rating by US magazine Forbes, Baturina has lost USD 3.3 billion (EUR 2.4 billion, CHF 3.7 billion)of her fortune over the last year and with estimated wealth of USD 0.9 billion no longer makes its billionaires list.

Baturina, who married Luzhkov in 1991, founded Inteco in 1989. It initially worked in the plastics business but rapidly grew into Moscow's biggest real estate construction firm.

She told Vedomosti that Inteco had debts worth RUB 30 billion, mainly from the bank of state-run energy giant Gazprom and the state bank Sberbank.

The debt to Gazprombank is worth RUB 15 billion and will be partly satisfied through the sale of Inteko's shares in Gazprom, Sberbank and state oil firm Rosneft, she said.

"We have debts. But they are completely comparable with what we own," she said.

Moscow enjoyed an unprecedented building boom during years of strong growth before the current financial crisis but the global slowdown has sent rents plummeting and prompted the freezing of several projects.

Critics have accused Inteco of taking advantage of her links with Luzhkov to win lucrative contracts but Baturina has always insisted that there has never been a conflict of interest.

AFP / Expatica

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