18.03.2016 — FAS Wants to Limit IP Rights

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has prepared amendments to the Russian Civil Code that provide for an involuntary transfer of license for an invention in case a monopolist abuses its dominant position on the Russian market. These propositions are in line with the overall trend for tightening competition law regulations, which was set in the so-called third and fourth antimonopoly packages, and which has been harshly criticised by business representatives.

According to FAS, these amendments will relieve the supply shortage of ‘must-have’ products (such as medication) on the market, and will result in regulation of their prices. The proposed amendments will apply to any type of goods produced by a monopolist. Thus, the court can order a monopolist to sell its license (albeit on market terms and for a limited time), if the company has violated antimonopoly regulations in Russia. Pursuant to the proposed amendments, either FAS or a third company, which is ready to produce similar goods, will be entitled to make the relevant claim.

Interestingly, experts have expressed views that these amendments may do more harm than good. They may discourage national designers and engineers from pursuing new inventions, lead to a decrease in allocated foreign innovative and high-tech production in Russia due to the possible abuse of the new rules, as well as a decrease in the quality of the goods.

17.03.2016 — Legal Entities to Disclose Their Beneficial Owners

The Russian State Duma has passed a bill obliging legal entities to disclose information on their beneficial owners upon the request of the Federal Service for Financial Monitoring (Rosmonitoring) and a number of other federal bodies. The bill is aimed at combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

The bill was referred to the State Duma in January.  It applies to all financial and banking organisations servicing companies’ bank accounts. According to the explanatory notes accompanying the bill, these measures will increase the transparency of companies’ activities, reduce the risk that they will engage in unlawful activity, including money laundering and terrorism financing.

Notably, however, the present version of the bill disregards the necessity to protect trade and bank secrets and provides for sanctions even if the company in question is ready to cooperate with state authorities. Experts are therefore sure that the draft bill will have to undergo significant changes before it can be adopted.

16.03.2016 — Import Substitution in Action: Vladivostok Free Port Approves First Five Investors

The first five agreements were signed with the new residents of Free port of Vladivostok on Wednesday, March 16. Approximately 1.334 billion RUR will be invested into the Russian Far East and 630 jobs will be created on the territory as a result of these investment projects.

So far the JSC Corporation for Development of the Far East has registered 54 applications from potential residents of the Free port of Vladivostok, which could possibly invest 124 billion RUR and create more than 5.000 jobs.

It will be recalled that the Federal law establishing Vladivostok and the surrounding area as a free port came into force on October 12, 2015. The law provides for a number of benefits to investors, including state support, as well as a special regulation, management and control regime.

15.03.2016 — Minpromtorg Invites Foreign Investors to Produce Goods in Russia

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (Minpromtorg) uses personal invitations as a means of attracting foreign investors. The Ministry is currently working on a presentation on business opportunities in Russia and has invited certain European retailers (e.g. IKEA) to place its orders in the consumer goods sector in Russia.

It will be recalled that in view of the current international economic situation, the Russian Government has been focusing on attracting foreign enterprises so as to ensure the localisation of their production on the territory of Russia.

The Ministry has been successful in attracting a number of large corporations (such as the Spanish retailer Zara, the French retailer Decathlon etc.), which are ready to negotiate the terms and conditions of cooperation in this sphere. Russian retailers, including Sela, that have been manufacturing their goods in China, have also shown interest in working with Russian manufacturers. 

14.03.2016 — Banking Sector Cleanup

In 2015 the Central Bank of Russia revoked 106 banking licenses as compared to 82 licenses in 2014. Within the last three years (since Elvira Nabiullina was appointed Head of the Central Bank of Russia) 252 banks have either lost their licenses or have been subject to financial rehabilitation, whereas the total volume of questionable transactions has decreased from USD 38.8 billion to USD 558 million. It seems that this trend will persist in 2016.

Generally the Central Bank has revoked licenses from small private banks that failed to comply with the requirements set by the legislation and law-making acts in the sphere of combating money laundering and terrorism financing issued by the Central Bank. Thus, the Central Bank has recently revoked banking licenses from two Moscow banks, Natzkorpbank and Ekaterininsky.

Nevertheless, large and mid-sized Russian banks have also felt the consequences of the financial crisis. The liabilities of Vneshprombank, whose license has recently been revoked, exceeded its assets (275 billion RUR) by approximately 187 billion RUR. The payments to depositors of the mid-sized Intercommerz bank made from the fund of the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) reached an all-time high of 60 billion RUR in 2016.

Subsidiaries of foreign banks (such as Citybank, Nordea bank, HSBC etc.), as well as Sberbank  - the only Russian bank that has retained its investment ranking - remain the safest banks in Russia.