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Who are Russia's most active private equity investors?

The war in Ukraine has led much of the world to impose strict sanctions on Russia in an attempt to put pressure on Vladimir Putin's regime. The impact on the Russian economy has been devastating, and there is no sign of these international efforts letting up. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans on Russian officials and oligarchs; trade blocks on various banks, institutions and companies; Russia's exclusion from the SWIFT banking network; and, more recently, a US ban on the import of Russian oil, gas and coal.

As Putin digs in his heels, many Western governments are looking to expand—not reduce—the restrictions, with further energy sanctions still being considered. Inevitably, investors based in Russia will bear a lot of the pain, whether they have government ties or not. Below, we have compiled a list of the most active Russian private equity investors in the past five years and where they are invested, according to the PitchBook platform. Baring Vostok Capital Partners Russia's largest independent private equity firm traces its roots back to a time when East-West relations were warmer. Established around five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Baring Vostok was the product of a joint venture between the UK's Baring Asset Management and Russian-American merchant bank Sovlink.

The firm had already been courting controversy before the Ukraine invasion. Last year, a Russian court handed its American co-founder, Michael Calvey, a suspended sentence for embezzlement. Before the war, Baring had more than $3.7 billion in assets under management. The firm has closed 10 funds to date, the most recent being BV 2019, for which it raised an undisclosed amount in early 2020.

The firm has been involved in a number of notable tech deals in Russia and elsewhere. Recent investments in its portfolio include Singapore-based digital bank Tonik, UK ridehailing startup Gett and Jiffy Grocery, a UK food delivery company.

Baring Vostok was also a major backer of Ozon, the "Amazon of Russia," which halted trading on the Nasdaq exchange earlier this month after its stock went into free fall. Russia-China Investment Fund Backed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the China Investment Corporation, RCIF was founded in 2012 to invest in infrastructure and tourism between China and Russia. The firm targets investments across the agriculture, mining, telecommunication, mine deposits, healthcare, oil and gas, forest, energy, manufacturing and service sectors.

While it is clear the firm will feel the macroeconomic impact of Western sanctions, it's currently unclear how it will be affected by its China connection. China hasn't joined other nations in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, there are reports that sovereign wealth funds, including China's CIC, may yet decide to shun future Russian investments.

RCIF is reportedly in the process of acquiring two brands from Indian pharmaceutical group Dr. Reddy's Laboratories through its portfolio company Binnopharm Group, alongside Sistema, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and VTB Capital. The fund also has some notable investments in China, including backing the autonomous driving unit of Chinese ridehailing company Didi Chuxing. Da Vinci Capital  Da Vinci Capital was set up in 2007 and focuses on mid-market, high-growth private equity investments. The firm has strong global connections, with offices in London. In a recent social media post the firm voiced its support for Ukraine.

At the start of this year, the firm had been investing out of its third technology fund which it launched in 2021 with a $300 million target. It counts German development finance institution DEG among its LPs and previous investors include Adams Street Partners and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

While the firm is predominantly focused on its home market, it has made several overseas investments. As with Baring Vostok, it was an early backer of Gett prior to the latter's $1.3 billion SPAC merger last year. It also invested in Latvian licensing business Squalio and US outsourcing company DataArt last year. In January, the firm exited its majority stake in UK mobile advertising platform LoopMe to Mayfair Equity Partners. Elbrus Capital  Elbrus Capital focuses on growth and buyout deals and, like Da Vinci Capital, was launched in 2007. Also like Da Vinci, its leadership team includes former executives from Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital. The firm focuses on Russia and former Soviet Union countries. Its target sectors include healthcare, consumer products and service, education and software.

The firm also counts the likes of DEG and EBRD among its LPs, but just over half of its investor base comes from outside Europe. Other LPs include JP Morgan Asset Management, Iowa Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. While its portfolio is almost exclusively Russian and Eastern European, it has made recent investments in companies headquartered in the UK and Ireland: Dublin-based IT outsourcer SBDA Group and London-based money transfer platform TransferGo.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Baring Vostok had invested in US photo-editing app maker Picsart. Baring Vostok has never invested in Picsart, which raised $130 million in a Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 last August. 

Featured image by NurPhoto/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on PitchBook News