Russia Has Emerged at Last
- By Stephen Jennings
- Jun. 17 2008 00:00
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We live in an age of accelerating economic convergence. The world's new economies --with Russia among the leaders -- will drive global growth and value creation in the early decades of this new century.
This tectonic shift is now firmly under way, but few have taken on board the far-reaching implications. For example, the world's largest businesses will be from new world economies and the world's most influential businesspeople will be Russian, Chinese, Indian and African. New world investment funds will dwarf their Western counterparts. The dollar will become only one of many reserve currencies. Moscow, Singapore, Shanghai and Dubai, will, alongside London, be where the majority of wealth is managed and traded.
The world's "emerging economies" have, in fact, emerged. The sheer scale of the economic changes is breathtaking. In 1980, 2.8 billion people lived in countries that were growing faster than the Group of Seven nations, while today there are 5 billion people benefiting from this convergence.
The speed of the economic changes is unparalleled. At the beginning of the 20th century, what are now the G7 nations controlled roughly 60 percent of world output. By 1980, according to the International Monetary Fund, their share had fallen to 51.5 percent. Today, it is just 42 percent. In the next 20 years, there will be a bigger shakeup in the global economy than we saw in the previous century of economic change, which itself was the fastest period of global growth in history.
What is driving this economic transformation? It is private businesses investing private capital to meet the demand of private-sector consumers. And increasingly, the world's most dynamic companies are coming out of Russia and the world's other most dynamic economies.
Cross-border mergers and acquisitions are another indicator. According to Thomson Reuters, emerging-market mergers and acquisitions this year are up 17 percent, while they are down 43 percent in the rest of the world. Russian companies alone have been involved in cross-border mergers and acquisitions transactions totaling an about $13 billion so far this year, up fourfold over the same time last year.
Companies with headquarters in the so-called high-growth countries, or HGCs, are also growing in terms of their global stature. According to a report issued by the U.S.-based Reputation Institute, 35 companies located in the four BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China are also on the institute's list of the world's most respected companies in 2008. Russian companies making the list of the top 200 include LUKoil, Gazprom, Sberbank, Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, Norilsk Nickel, Evraz, Rosneft and TNK-BP.
The HGCs are producing many of the best leaders and business models for the exciting new world in which we live. Business leaders in these countries tend to be risk-takers because of the speed and magnitude of change surrounding them. Almost by definition, to have been successful at building a business in one of these markets, an entrepreneur has to have thought more ambitiously, built faster and handled far greater risk than business people in mature markets.
The ownership and decision-making structures of companies in HGCs are also better suited to the business environments in which they operate. To be successful, it is critical to be able to move quickly and make big decisions. For that, you need concentrated ownership and focus from key decision makers who are totally locked into the long-term risks and rewards of their actions.
So increasingly, it is not just the fastest-growing economies, wealth creation and markets that are emerging among HGCs, but also the people and the companies best placed to take advantage of them.
Of course, there are still large risks. One of the biggest risks is a global economic downturn caused by the large-scale structural adjustment being forced on developed countries. HGC economies face a painful transition, to be sure. They cannot rely on developed markets to continue to provide the growth in demand for their exports. The future growth markets will be the HGCs themselves. The question is how quickly that transition will take place and whether it is spurred more by increased demand from new economies or a decrease from the developed countries.
Another challenge is the stage of development of the HGCs' financial markets. In the near term, these markets are simply not large enough to facilitate the flood of global and domestic capital headed their way. Clearly this provides an amazing medium-term growth opportunity for the financial services industries of the HGCs. This process will involve the emergence of new localized reserve currencies and much deeper and more sophisticated local capital and banking markets. There will also be an explosion of financial flows and integration among the HGCs themselves -- the regions with the greatest savings flows and the highest investment returns in the world.
We are living in a world that is going through a fundamental and profound realignment. What does this mean for Russia?
Russia's political and economic influence will only increase in the future, and the country's companies will be more important in the global economy. Moscow will grow in stature as a financial capital, becoming one of the world's top six or seven financial centers in the next decade. The nature of inward investment will also change, with increased capital coming from investors in Asia, the Middle East and other HGCs. And, without a doubt, the quality of life for Russians -- and their economic and social freedoms -- will continue to improve.
It is becoming ever more clear that the rise of the HGCs, with Russia featuring prominently, is on a scale and at a speed that dwarfs anything that has come before. We are entering a brave new world, where economies, financial institutions and private companies from emerging markets are the dominant force not only behind global growth, but also increasingly behind global business, wealth management and finance.
Stephen Jennings is CEO of Renaissance Group.