Earlier this week, communication and IT industry giant Cisco Systems announced a massive push into the Russian market by investing more than $1 billion in the country over the next decade. The company will also be providing $100 million in venture capital in order to establish a “dedicated physical presence” in a planned technology hub outside Moscow, being dubbed “Russia’s Silicon Valley.” The company will also look to drastically increase the number of its networking academies and to establish a second global headquarters for its Emerging Technologies Group in a leading area on the outskirts of Moscow.
This massive expansion in Russia represents a huge development for not only the company but for the Russian technology industry as a whole. The fact that Russia was able to attract such a large investment from Cisco to develop better infrastructure in the country suggests that the industry is up-and-coming and that efforts to attract foreign companies are off to a good start. These efforts could help to diversify the resource-intensive Russian economy, a high priority for the current Russian government. In fact, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev has set aside several generous perks for companies that establish operations in Russia’s new tech center, including 10-year tax holidays, fast-track residence and work permits for foreign professionals.
Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX)
RSX is the most popular and widely traded Russian ETF on the market today; the fund has over $1.7 billion in assets and has an average daily volume of 3.8 million shares. Reflecting the composition of the Russian economy, the fund is heavily concentrated on energy and industrial materials firm,s which make up close to two-thirds of the fund’s total assets. RSX also displays a high level of concentration in giant and large cap firms; a very small portion of assets are in small cap stocks. Despite the risk that comes with a heavy reliance on natural resource prices, RSX has delivered some huge returns in recent periods; the fund is up almost 50% over the past 52 weeks, but has posted a loss of 5% thus far in 2010 [also see Three Country ETFs With Low Debt-To-GDP].
S&P SPDR Russia ETF (RBL)
RBL is a relatively new fund that offers slightly lower expenses than RSX (three basis points). This fund also allocates a large amount of its assets to energy and materials firms, which make up just over 60% of RBL holdings. Its top holdings are both Russian oil and gas firms, with Gazprom leading the way at 16% of assets and Lukoil accounting for about 8%. Since its inception a few months ago, the fund has lost about 9%, but it has surged as of late to post a gain of 5% over the past two weeks [also see Russia ETFs Head-To-Head: RBL vs. RSX].
Broad Emerging Europe Funds
For investors looking to make a more diversified play on the regional economy, two options exist that allocate just over 50% of their assets to the Russian economy while spreading out the rest among several emerging eastern European (such as Hungary and Poland). There are a few differences between these funds; the SPDR S&P Emerging Europe ETF (GUR) allocates about 16% of its assets to the country of Turkey while the MSCI Emerging Markets Eastern Europe Index Fund (ESR) offers no Turkey exposure, making up for this with a larger allocation to both Poland and the Czech Republic [see Emerging Europe ETFs Head-To-Head: ESR vs. GUR].
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.