India, Russia ink deal to set up $2 bn fund

Business

In a move aimed at funding core sector projects as well as improving bilateral investments, particularly in the energy sector, India and Russia on Monday signed a pact to set up a $2 billion investment fund. The investment vehicle, which is Russia's second in the region after China, will focus on acquisition of assets in both countries.

Accordingly, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and State Bank of India (SBI) signed a pact to set up the fund, with both agencies expected to invest $1 billion each. The agreement, was among the 10 pacts signed at the 13th India- Russia Annual Summit that was led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The proposed Indo-Russia Joint Investment Fund is expected to be used as a vehicle to route and manage strategic investments by Indian companies with interest in hydro-carbon assets, diamond and other mineral assets in Russia," an SBI press release said.

The fund would have the potential to give a fillip to investments such as those by ONGC Videsh Limited into Russia's Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project as well as a 20 per cent stake in Russian energy giant Rosneft.

Several cash-rich Indian public sector firms, including NMDC, Coal India Ltd and NTPC have also been pitching for a sovereign wealth fund to help finance their asset acquisitions abroad, and the finance ministry is also understood to be working on the proposal.

The Indo-Russian fund would, however, focus on projects geared towards 'higher purchasing power of the population', creation of value addition in the extraction and processing of natural resources as well as development of manufacturing businesses and service sector companies.

"The co-investment consortium, given the government support, helps mitigate the risks that might arise from the global economic situation," said RDIF's chief executive officer Kirill Dmitriev who signed the Memorandum of Understanding with State Bank of India chairman Pratip Chaudhuri.

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