Top Job Changes Hands at MICEX

VedomostiPotyomkin
Central Bank Deputy Chairman Konstantin Korishchenko has been tapped to head the MICEX Group in the first major reshuffle since recent financial turmoil wiped out more than half the value of shares on the country's leading stock exchange.

Korishchenko will replace current MICEX president Alexander Potyomkin, who is moving back to work at the Central Bank, which is the MICEX's largest shareholder.

The appointment of Korishchenko, who already serves as chairman of MICEX's board of directors, still has to be confirmed at an emergency shareholders meeting, a source close to the exchange said.

At the Central Bank, Korishchenko has overseen exchange rate policy, including the ruble rate against the dollar-euro basket, and the country's gold and foreign exchange reserves. On his watch, the Central Bank has diversified its reserve holdings away from the dollar and toward the euro.

A Central Bank spokesman declined to comment Friday, saying Korishchenko would make a statement Monday.

The reshuffle comes in the wake of Russia's worst stock market losses in a decade and barely a week after both the country's main exchanges repeatedly suspended trading amid extremely volatile market conditions.

As the U.S. financial system totters on the brink of a major recession, governments around the world have called for increased regulation of financial institutions.

In Russia, the effects of the global liquidity crisis are being felt, with investment bank Renaissance Capital last week agreeing to sell half its shares to billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov for a discounted $500 million.

Putting Korishchenko in to run the exchange, which is 50 percent-owned by the Central Bank, shows that the government is eager to increase market regulation as it prepares to support key stocks with budget funds, analysts said.

Earlier this month, Korishchenko said the government had the resources to cover all the banking industry's "conceivable" liquidity needs and could provide as much as 3 trillion rubles ($120 billion) to banks, RIA-Novosti reported.

Korishchenko has opposed suggestions by the government's markets regulator, the Federal Service for Financial Markets, to merge MICEX with the RTS, calling consolidation of the two stock exchanges "problematic."

Ronald Smith, chief strategist at Alfa Bank, said Korishchenko's appointment might lead to a change of emphasis, as one of the government's priorities is to modernize the financial system through changes in stock market management.

The ongoing turmoil in the market presented an opportunity for the government to act, he said.

"After having to take the drastic measure of shutting the market for nearly two full days, some changes were all but inevitable," Smith said, adding, "I don't think the timing could be accidental."

The MICEX Group comprises the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, the MICEX Stock Exchange, the National Mercantile Exchange, the MICEX Settlement House, the National Depositary Center and the National Clearing Center, plus some smaller regional exchanges.

Potyomkin has headed the MICEX Group since 2003, during which time it has eclipsed the dollar-denominated RTS in terms of official trading volumes. He received a three-year contract extension from MICEX this spring.

Potyomkin worked at the Central Bank during the 1990s and was deputy chairman overseeing the ruble exchange at the time of the 1998 financial crisis and ruble devaluation.

His new position at the Central Bank will be that of adviser, Kommersant reported Saturday, without citing anyone.