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Schwarzenegger leads U.S. tech investors to Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s ambition to become a hi-tech economy will be under scrutiny this week when California state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a host of prospective investors from Silicon Valley look for opportunities at the country’s flagship technology hub.

“The goal for investors is to maximize the returns on their investments, so they need to know their investments are secure,” said Alexandra Johnson, head of California-based Global Technology Symposium and a member of the U.S. delegation.

“The political risk -- or at least the perception of it -- (in Russia) is pretty high. Corruption is mentioned regularly, and while China is not exactly a democracy it has predictable laws. The rules of the game are not changed half way,” she told Reuters ahead of Schwarzenegger’s visit.

Schwarzenegger will lead a group of venture capitalists on Monday to meet companies and entrepreneurs at the Skolkovo technology center on the outskirts of Moscow -- launched earlier this year as part of President Dmitry Medvedev’s drive to modernize the Russian economy.

The trip comes as a return gesture from Schwarzenegger to Medvedev, who visited Silicon Valley and met with the former actor and bodybuilder in June to appeal for tech capital and U.S. know-how.

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Medvedev has poured cash into the tech sector but Johnson said a lack of successful Russian companies to date meant visiting investors would focus more on gathering information than committing any capital.

“There have been no really big IPOs in global markets so they (investors) don’t know what to expect,” she said.

As well as the creation of Skolkovo -- headed by energy and metals tycoon Viktor Vekselberg -- Russia has awarded $10 billion to innovation investment fund Rusnano.

Run by the architect of Russian privatization Anatoly Chubais, the group is currently funding 90 hi-tech products in partnership with Russian and foreign groups.

Also U.S. group Cisco has said it will invest $1 billion in Russia this decade and help to build the Skolkovo center alongside Germany’s Siemens.

Editing by Greg Mahlich

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