Test of Strength

The coming year will be a real test for Russian business. The economy remains to be highly dependent on oil prices, which growth is not expected (the surplus of oil will continue due to Iran's market entry and reduced demand from China).

At a price of $30-40 per barrel, Russian GDP dynamics will be in the range of about 1%, National Rating Agency (NRA) forecasts. And business can not feel better than the economy as a whole.

'We do not see any prerequisites of avoiding stagnation next year,' said the Head of NRA's Methodical Management Maxim Vasin. 'The main risks are budget sequestration and reduction of budget spending, including public investments, reduction of investment attractiveness of the Russian economy as a whole. Also among the risks – tightening of access to foreign capital markets and highly limited internal capital market (the issue of cheap and long money).' The expert also drew attention to the depletion of consumer demand coupled with the high level of credit load – according to him, now the decline in consumer demand is faster than the decline in the economy in general. To a large extent, production 'works for warehouses'. 'Very high rate of decline in the turnover of retail trade is a major concern. The economy can not grow in the conditions of a significant weakening of consumer activity,' said Vasin.

Regarding the Western sanctions, NRA thinks that they have limited, not decisive influence on the business. It is most likely that sanctions will be continued and even intensified. However, even their cancellation will change the investment climate, but will not affect the global trends in the economy, which are caused by other things.

Entrepreneurs point out that the sanctions have not made a positive impact on a single company. However, compared with June, the proportion of those who have not felt an impact of the sanctions increased to 54%, – shows the study of Alfa-Bank 'Pulse of Small Business'. 38% said that the sanctions have negatively affected their business, and the most suffering are trucking, construction and retail trade industries. 'Of course, it is not only sanctions, but they too complicated the economic situation in the country. The price of the market basket grew, as well as the cost of housing and communal services, a lot of consumer market good became substantially more expensive, and household income declined significantly. As a result, overall purchasing activity and purchasing power dropped, sales decreased by 70%, with failures began working partner companies,' noted the study participants. Fashion industry faced the change in patterns of consumption because of higher prices: in the first place people pay for food, housing, credits, and further, if any left, they spend money on clothes and shoes. Some companies admit that they refrain from any actions related to financial risks (including loans and leasing).

Managing partner of the National Agency for Financial Studies (NAFI), Pavel Samiev noted that the dynamics of loans to non-financial sector is unstable. The growth rate began to gradually decline since 2012, last year the overall situation was supported by the currency revaluation – it would fall without it. Today arrears on ruble loans to the financial sector are 8% of the portfolio, on foreign currency loans it is much lower, however, according to Samiev, there is no reason for optimism. These are mainly loans to large businesses, which do not reflect the real quality of assets due to forced restructuring and renewal. The quality of loans to big businesses in the next year may show some bad surprises, warned the expert.

One of the leaders of overdue debts among industries turned out to be air transport (21.7%, an increase of 12% compared to the previous year). According to Samiev, a significant impact on this numbers made Transaero and UTair. In second place is construction (19.1%), in third – trade (8.9%). 'The proportion of renewals grew, which is unusual for the trade industry, and it's a bad sign, because it means the failure of a number of consumer sectors. Prolongation usually relates to construction, project companies that draw up investment loans. These are usually large borrowers, which have strong negotiating positions and can reach agreements with banks. The growth of renewals in the commercial sector, which usually takes short loans, means that there are not enough money to meet the obligations. These, of course, are unplanned, forced prolongations,' said the expert.

NAFI entrepreneurs survey conducted in autumn showed that for 54% of them the situation has worsened, while for 40% it has not changed or even improved. Despite the crisis, third of them planned expansion of business. Alfa-Bank research showed that 42% plan to increase the turnover and enter new markets, it concerns in particular IT, wholesale, manufacturing, and marketing.

A few government initiatives should support business next year. In particular, since January 1 a three-year moratorium on planned inspections of small businesses is implied. It applies to those who 'faithfully carries out its activities'. The same law prohibits requiring during inspections from entrepreneurs of documents and information which had already been provided before, or documents that are already in possession of other authorities. The law also prohibits to require information contained in government information systems, registers, or registries. The inspection entity will have to request such documents through the channels of inter-agency cooperation. Starting next year, legal entities can appeal to the FAS of Russia on actions of state and municipal authorities that violate the terms of the procedures in the construction industry and the requirements of the procedures that are not established in the Town Planning Code.

It is planned to introduce a two-year immunity for checking of businesses which revenue from goods sales does not exceed 400 million rubles. The State Duma's Committee on Economic Policy proposes to make this immunity perpetual, said its Chairman, Anatoly Aksakov. According to him, what could help the business in the fight against administrative barriers is the introduction of tough KPI for governors in development rates of small and medium-sized enterprises, SME's revenue and employment. 'Lawmakers are set out to work actively with the business, including in the areas for which they are criticized,' said Aksakov.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 29/12/2015