Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg Renova Group investment company has created a stir in the Swiss capital markets after the news broke that they may significantly increase their investment in steelmakers Schmolz & Bickenbach AG.
/ By Stanley Green /
Viktor Vekselberg obviously has a soft spot for the Swiss, with Renova already minority shareholders in Schmolz & Bickenbach AG as well as two other Swiss concerns, OC Oerlikon AG who manufacture specialist machinery for the textile industry in which they own 47.9% of the share equity and Sulzer, one of Europe’s leading manufacturer of pumps and pumping systems, especially for the water and wastewater industries where they hold 31.2% of the stock. Now Viktor Vekselberg has expressed his desire to deepen his involvement with Schmolz (as they are generally known) to help the company ease themselves out of the financial strife they find themselves in.
Vekselberg, after raising his personal fortune by $7 billion as recently as last month after selling his 12.5% stake in Russian based oil company TNK-BP, has now turned his interest in the direction of Schmolz, where the controlling interest remain in the hands of the Schmolz family, The Schmolzs have apparently welcomed Vekselberg’s interest with open arms, and are reportedly planning considerable capital restructuring for the Emmenbruecke-based company, that will possibly involve further partners and investors entering into the frame, possibly from within the global steel and aluminium industry in which he has considerable experience and financial interests.
Schmolz have suffered particularly badly over the last few years as a result of the downturn for steel in Europe, with their main focus of activity being suppliers to the auto manufacturing industry which has been especially in the doldrums. Share values of the company were sitting at a level of ten percent of their 2008 value, before the news of Renovo’s increased participation broke, rising by more than 8% in a single day to push the company’s market value up by 301 million francs ($317 million) to around $4.7 billion.
Victor Vekselberg was born in 1957 in the Western Ukraine and after graduating from the Moscow Transportation Engineering Institute in 1979 worked for many years as a research engineer in a state owned concern till the fall of Communism in 1991.
In his early thirties, and with opportunities abounding in post Communist Russia, Vekselberg took his first tentative steps into the world of free enterprise, doing sufficiently well to capture the attention of Boris Yeltsin after his re-election to President in 1996. With privatization rampant, Vekselberg he succeeded in building the Tyumen Oil (TNK), into one of Russia’s most successful oil and gas exploration and marketing concerns, eventually forming a particularly lucrative partnership with BP.
Vekselberg capitalized on his success with TNK by investing heavily in a diversified marketing company under the title of the RUSAL Company, which enjoyed particular success growing to become the largest aluminum production business in the world, which he eventually amalgamated with a number of other companies under his control to form the Renova Group, where he acts as chairman of the Board of Directors and has furthered developed the company to a status of among Russia’s largest business development companies with considerable interests around Europe. Among Vekselberg’s partners and contemporaries is well known tycoon Leonard Blavatnik.
Viktor Vekselberg stands together with Blavatnik as among Russia’s original oligarchs, with an estimated net worth of around $12 billion, placing him somewhere in the top hundred wealthiest people in the world and still moving upwards.