Mar 19 - Sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine could have a significant financial impact on London. As Ivor Bennett reports the City has become a hub for Russian companies doing business around the globe.
Welcome to Londongrad - the little piece of Russia in the heart of the British capital. The West End is where they live, the City is where they play. SOUNDBITE (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "IPOs, M and As, London is the go-to place for Russian businesses looking to make it big in the global financial system. But the threat of escalating sanctions could change that. Although the street signs will stay, the companies may not." The sanctions so far have left businesses unscathed. But it's created a climate of uncertainty that could see London losing out. Two Russian IPOs have alraedy been postponed - the crisis in Crimea denting appetite for Russian stocks. Sergei Ostrovsky is Partner at London law firm Ashurst. SOUNDBITE (English) SERGEI OSTROVSKY, PARTNER, ASHURST LLP, SAYING: "There will be a period of caution while people put on hold projects that can be put on hold, adopt the wait and see position. and in the long term, it is difficult to see for an easy replacement for the city of London where Russian business is concerned." Nearly 70 Russian companies are listed on London markets, including the likes of energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom. Most have floated in the last ten years, with IPOs totalling over 50 billion dollars. The most recent was hypermaket chain Lenta - raising nearly a billion at the end of last month. But according NAB's Tom Vosa, it may not be a bad thing if the business dries up. SOUNDBITE (English) TOM VOSA, HEAD OF MARKET ECONOMICS, EUROPE, NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK, SAYING: "We have to say that the quality of some of the Russian floats on the London stock market may've done perhaps more harm than good in the first place due to governance issues. Clearly in terms of fees for lawyers and accountants and indeed sponsoring banks they might be a bit lower, but perhaps London might need to look at cleaning its act up. and perhaps avoiding some of this business would not be a bad thing." But for much of the City it's quantity that matters. And with many of the companies closely tied to the Russian state, any increase in sanctions is sure to be felt. A scenario that still hasn't been ruled out.