Shuvalov: Tycoons Won't All Get Help

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Russia will not write a blank check to save top businessmen hit by the global economic crisis, and the state expects something in return for helping bail them out, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Thursday.

Some of Russia's richest men, who borrowed billions of dollars in the boom years during Vladimir Putin's presidency, face difficulties because the value of collateral they put up as security for major loans has plummeted.

Russia has spent large amounts helping businessmen such as metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska, once Russia's richest man, refinance foreign debt.

But Shuvalov said businessmen should not expect the state to help them with everything and they would have to make compromises.

"We must have understanding. ... We see that many enterprises that we work with, and their shareholders, have started to feel that the state will save them no matter what," he told reporters at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

"Against this background, they have begun to think ... that the state will help them no matter, help them to refinance their foreign debts and give them special programs to buy their production. We have nothing like this in our plans."

Russia has spent about $11 billion through state corporation VEB to refinance companies' foreign debts and had received requests for much more financial help, Shuvalov said.

He gave no details, but VEB chairman Vladimir Dmitriyev told reporters that Russian companies had made bids for about $90 billion to help them restructure their foreign debts.

Russian corporations must pay back $115.7 billion in foreign debt and interest this year, according to government estimates.

Putin told investors in Davos on Wednesday that excessive state intervention in the economy would be a mistaken reaction to the crisis.

He also said businessmen would have to take responsibility for their decisions, although the state would continue to support national champions.

"Just because the enterprise is important and has several tens of thousands of workers, we do not simply intend to give out resources and wait for them to come for more later," said Shuvalov, an influential figure in Putin's government.

"The shareholders and heads of these enterprises must for themselves look at their own personal responsibility," he said.

Deripaska last year used his 25 percent stake in Norilsk Nickel, the world's leading producer of nickel and palladium, as collateral for a $4.5 billion loan from VEB.

Norilsk's largest shareholder, Vladimir Potanin, and Deripaska, who controls aluminum giant United Company RusAl, have proposed pooling their metals assets with other miners to create an entity that would be part-owned by the Kremlin and wipe out their debts.