Equity Firms Less Optimistic

Private equity firms are less optimistic about Russia than last year but still see opportunities, as the credit crunch leaves companies with few other financing options, a survey showed Tuesday.

According to a Deloitte survey of 65 private equity houses engaged in Russia, most still expected to be doing more buying than selling over the next six months — though the percentage fell to 69 percent from last year's 91 percent.

The survey was taken from July 16 to Aug. 20, a period in which foreign investors took billions of dollars out of the country, spooked by falling oil prices, wrangles over TNK-BP, a government attack on coal mining company Mechel, the military conflict with Georgia and the subsequent souring of relations with the West.

Most of the respondents expected overall market activity and the average size of transactions to remain the same or decrease over the next six months, compared with an overwhelming vote for both to increase in the 2007 survey.

While a year ago those polled unanimously expected the availability of debt finance to rise, now they are evenly split between seeing it remain stable or forecasting a reduction.

The deterioration in market conditions has also changed the way private equity firms expect to exit their investments and lock in profits — only 14 percent are banking on an initial public offering now, compared with 64 percent a year ago.