* IPOs, debt issues, conferences already postponed due to Ukraine
* Privatisation program has been much-delayed
* Russian officials concerned about economic impact
By Maria Kiselyova and Megan Davies
MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - Russia said its long-delayed privatisation programme could be postponed again, the latest victim of a deepening economic crisis over Ukraine that has put off IPOs, debt issues and conferences.
Russia’s MICEX index, already hurt by an economic downturn, has fallen 13 percent this year, while the rouble is down 11 percent against the dollar on concerns about the impact of deteriorating relations with the West.
The escalating worries over Ukraine have caused deals to be put on ice as bankers and investors weigh the potential costs of tougher sanctions from the West.
Olga Dergunova, head of the state property management agency, said on Tuesday that Russia’s government could postpone major privatisation deals expected in the second quarter if the Ukrainian crisis took a heavy toll on the economy.
“It may obviously (happen), we could do it in the third and in the fourth quarter,” Interfax news agency quoted her saying.
She mentioned airline Aeroflot, shipping group Sovcomflot and oil major Rosneft as candidates for privatisation deals this year.
Telecoms groups Rostelecom is also on the privatisation list although Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday reported that it was delaying its planned secondary public offering, scheduled for the first half of the year, due to turbulent markets. Rostelecom declined to comment.
Other equity offerings have been put on ice as companies wait for the situation to improve, banking sources and sources familiar with the deals have said. Several IPOs are in the wings including German retailer Metro’s ’s Russian wholesale business, children’s goods retailer Detsky Mir, and credit company Credit Bank of Moscow.
Bond deals put on hold include Russian bank Promsvyazbank which said it was delaying a roadshow to investors. Credit firm TCS said it would only consider a Eurobond issue once conditions were favourable again.
As international investor sentiment towards Russia took a hit, conferences have also been put on hold.
Russia’s largest bank Sberbank postponed one of the country’s highest profile investment conferences while VTB Capital, the investment banking arm of Russia’s second-largest bank VTB, postponed an investment forum.
Depositors have also been betting on the rouble’s decline and moving money, bankers said. One banker at a Russian retail bank, who declined to be named, said there had been evidence of customers changing money from roubles into dollars and euros.
Putin on Tuesday fiercely defended Russia’s actions in Crimea and blasted the West, but markets took some cheer from comments that pacified concerns Russia would try to seize other Ukrainian regions.
“We still need to see how or if ... the world reacts to a formal assimilation into Russia,” said one emerging markets banker. “But (there) seems to be a little more optimism around.”
Putin’s decision to raise the stakes in Ukraine has caused concerns of lasting damage to Russia’s economy.
“The economic situation shows clear signs of a crisis,” Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov told a local business conference in the first acknowledgment by a Russian official of an economic crisis.
Russia’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Alexey Rakhmanov said any action in terms of sanctions would be reciprocal and that Russian industry could survive, but conceded the risk to the country.
“We are serious in attracting so many foreign investments to Russia and to spoil it at one moment would be a silly exercise, but it is a two way road,” he said on the sidelines of an Adam Smith autos conference in Moscow.
Rakhmanov said Russia has worked hard to build self-sustainable businesses in every industry and ”we feel ... reasonably comfortable that we can survive on our own.
“On the other hand, I like to express the hope that commonsense will prevail and the long-standing economic benefits will lead all the decision making,” he said.