MOSCOW (Reuters) - Veteran U.S. investor Jim Rogers is looking at possible investments into Russian oil firm Bashneft (BANE.MM) and diamond miner Alrosa (ALRS.MM) as he aims to add more Russian assets to his portfolio, he told Reuters.
The Russian state plans to sell off some of its holdings in a number of assets, including in Bashneft and Alrosa, as well as in VTB (VTBR.MM) bank. Unlike the first two, VTB is under western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
“I am sure there will be some good buys,” Rogers said in a telephone interview.
“If they (Bashneft and Alrosa) are not under sanctions, I will take a look – as I said, I am looking for more investments in Asia and in Russia but I am an American and I have to be a little bit careful.”
Western sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine prohibit U.S. and European Union passport holders from helping certain Russian companies and individuals to raise funds.
Rogers has been a prominent investor since the 1970s, when he founded the Quantum Fund in partnership with George Soros.
He already has interests in Russian state airline Aeroflot (AFLT.MM), the Moscow Exchange (MOEX.MM) and fertilizer producer PhosAgro (PHOR.MM). He owns some exchange traded funds (ETFs) and is investing in Russian treasury bonds.
“I am looking for more investments in Russia. I am trying to buy into a Russian tourist company, I am optimistic about Russian tourism,” Rogers said, adding that he was also looking to buy more stocks of Russian agriculture companies.
Rogers started to invest in Russian treasury bonds in April 2015 and added more rouble bonds to his portfolio in the last few weeks. He declined to give the size of his current Russian exposure.
“I bought more Russian government bonds about two or three weeks ago, or a month ago ... short-term. If I got a chance I would probably buy more,” Rogers said, adding that he was only investing in Russian rouble bonds, not Eurobonds.
“I want to buy rouble bonds, I am more optimistic about rouble bonds than I am in Eurobonds. Rouble bonds have much higher yields.”
According to ThomsonReuters data, Russian treasury bonds have delivered annual returns of up to 40 percent last year.
Short-term OFZ bonds with maturity of up to three years are currently trading at yields of 9.5-9.7 percent, with medium-term maturity of up to 7 years trading at 9.3-9.5 percent.
“More and more people coming to understand that Russia is a good place to invest ... Russia is not a huge debt nation, it’s not like Portugal or America,” Rogers said.
“The Russian economy is suffering a lot and many people have already cut back ... but America has not yet had a big drop, Germany did not have a big drop yet, but when they drop they will drop much more than Russia because Russia has already dropped.”
Additional reporting by Elena Orekhova; Editing by Tom Heneghan