by Ben Aris Business New Europe
Megastar investor and notorious Russia bear Jim Rogers appears to have had a change of heart and taken a job as an advisor to the agricultural fund run by Russian state-owned banking giant VTB Capital.
"Russia and the [Commonwealth of Independent States] region have all the ingredients needed to become the world’s agriculture powerhouse. It seems that everything may now be coming together under VTB Capital to make this happen, so I am keen to participate," Rogers, who is also chairman of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests, said in a statement, issued by the bank on Tuesday, September 19.
Best known for co-founding the Quantum Fund with George Soros in the 1970s that "broke" the Bank of England, forcing the UK out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, Rogers recently had an epiphany and said in an interview with CNBC in August: "I do not invest in Russia now, but for the first time in my life I have started considering it."
Since it was founded in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, VTB Capital has quickly grown to become Russia’s leading investment bank, dominating the equity, fixed income, and mergers and acquisition business in terms of volumes of deals, according to Dealogic.
The bank is also moving into private equity, which had been an ad-hoc business at the bank. The Russian government has targeted agriculture as a strategic sector and is pouring billions of dollars into its development. Rogers joins the agricultural division that is managed by VTB’s private equity department, where he "will provide regular advice and insights into global commodity markets and investment trends," VTB said.
"VTB Capital sees high potential in Russian agricultural market and plans to attract from $500mn to $1bn of the investments into the sector based on its phased development strategy. Russia and the broader CIS region is developing into a global agriculture superpower with its proximity to China, Middle East and North Africa resulting in it taking a leading role in the export of key agricultural commodities such as wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil," the bank said.
The move is quite a turnabout for Rogers, who is known for his bearish stance on Russia. He once famously told an audience at Harvard Business School that the country was a kleptoracy and that he would never invest there. His speech was so outspoken that one of the MBA students, a young Russian investment banker called Dmitry Alimov, stood up after the presentation to take issue with several of Rogers’ more controversial statements.
Jim Rogers has taught finance at Columbia University’s business school and is a media commentator worldwide. He is the author of Adventure Capitalist, Investment Biker, Hot Commodities, A Gift to My Children, and A Bull in China. See his website.