Jim Rogers On Opportunities In Russia & Other Hated Markets

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Nick Giambruno via Doug Casey's International Man blog,

ick Giambruno: Welcome, Jim. As you know, Doug Casey and I travel the world surveying crisis markets, and we always like to get your take on things. Today I want to talk to you about Russia, which is a very hated market right now. What are your thoughts on Russia in general and on Russian stocks in particular?

Jim Rogers: Well, I’m optimistic about the future of Russia. I was optimistic before this war started in Ukraine, which was instigated by the US, of course. But in any case, I bought more Russia during the Crimea incident, and I’m looking to buy still more.

Unfortunately, what’s happening is certainly not good for the United States. It’s driving Russia and Asia together, which means we’re going to suffer in the long run - the US and Europe. Another of the big four Chinese banks opened a branch in Moscow recently. The Iranians are getting closer to the Russians. The Russians recently finished a railroad into North Korea down to the Port Rason, which is the northernmost ice-free port in Asia. The Russians have put a lot of money into the Trans-Siberian railroad to update it and upgrade it, all of which goes right by China.

Usually, people who do a lot of business together wind up doing other things together, such as fighting wars, but this isn’t any kind of immediate development. I don’t think the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians are about to invade America.

Nick: So because of these economic ties to Asia, the Russians are not as dependent on the West. Is that why you’re optimistic about Russia?

Jim: I first went to the Soviet Union in 1966, and I came away very pessimistic. And I was pessimistic for the next 47 years, because I didn’t see how it could possibly work.

But then I started noticing, a year or two ago, that now everybody hates Russia—the market is not at all interesting to anybody anymore.

You may remember in the 1990s, and even the first decade of this century, everybody was enthusiastic about Russia. Lots of people had periodic bouts of huge enthusiasm. I was short the ruble in 1998, but other than that, I had never invested in Russia, certainly not on the long side. But a year or two ago I started noticing that things are changing in Russia… something is going on in the Kremlin. They understand they can’t just shoot people, confiscate people’s assets. They have to play by the rules if they want to develop their economy.

Now Russia has a convertible currency—and most countries don’t have convertible currencies, but the Russians do. They have fairly large foreign currency reserves and are building up more assets. Having driven across Russia a couple of times, I know they have vast natural resources. And now that the Trans-Siberian Railway has been rebuilt, it’s a huge asset as well.

So I see all these things. I knew the market was depressed, knew nobody liked it, so I started looking for and finding a few investments in Russia.

Nick: Yeah, that definitely seems to make sense when you look at the sentiment and long-term fundamentals. So where do you see the conflict with Ukraine and the tensions with the West going?

Jim: Well, the tensions are going to continue to grow, at least as long as you have the same bureaucrats in Washington. You know, they all have a professional stake in making sure that things don’t calm down in the former Soviet Union—so I don’t see things getting better any time soon.

I do notice that some companies and even countries have started pulling back from the sanctions. Many companies and people are starting to say, “Wait a minute, what is all this about?”

People are starting to reexamine the propaganda that comes out of Washington. Even the Germans are starting to reassess the situation. I suspect that things will cool off eventually, because the US doesn’t have much support and they’ve got plenty of other wars they want to fight or are keen to get started.

So Russia will become more and more dominant in Ukraine. The east is more or less Russian. Crimea was always Russian until Khrushchev got drunk one night and gave it away. So I suspect you will see more and more disintegration of Ukraine, which by the way is good for Ukraine and good for the world.

We don’t complain when the Scots have an election as to whether they want to leave the UK or not. People in Spain want to leave. We say we’re in favor of self-determination. We let Czechoslovakia break up, Yugoslavia break up, Ethiopia break up. These things are usually good. Many borders that exist are historic anomalies, and they should break up. Just because something happened after the First World War or Second World War and some bureaucrats drew a border doesn’t mean it’s logical or should survive.

So I suspect you will see more of eastern Ukraine becoming more and more Russian. I don’t see America going to war, I certainly don’t see Europe going to war over Ukraine, and so America will just sort of slowly slide away and have to admit another miscalculation.

Nick: I agree. Would you also say that Europe’s dependence on Russia for energy limits how far the sanctions can go? There’s been speculation that the Europeans are going to cut Russia out of the SWIFT system, like they did with Iran.

Jim: Well, anything can happen. I noticed SWIFT’s reaction when America tried to force them to do that: they were not very happy at all.

I’m an American citizen like you, and unfortunately the bigger picture is forcing the Russians, the Chinese, and others to accelerate in finding an alternative. That is not good for the US.

The Americans have a monopoly, because everyone who uses dollars has to get them cleared through New York. People were already starting to worry in the past few years about the American dominance of the system and its ability to just close everything down.

So now the Russians and Chinese and others are accelerating their efforts to find an alternative to SWIFT and to the American dollar and the dominance of the US financial system.

As I said earlier, none of this is good for the US. We think we’re hurting the Russians. We are actually hurting ourselves very badly in the long term.

Nick: I think one area where you can really see this is that the US essentially kicked Russia out of Visa and MasterCard. And what did Russia do? They turned to China UnionPay, which is China’s payment processor.

Jim: We could go on and on. There are things that have happened, and everything is underway now because Putin has told everybody, “Okay, we’ve got to reexamine our whole way of life that has evolved since the Berlin Wall fell,” and that’s one of the things. By the way, the Chinese love all of this. It’s certainly good for China. It’s not good for the US in the end, but it’s great for China and some Asian countries, such as Iran.

Nothing we have done has been good for America since this whole thing started—nothing. Everything we’ve done has been good for the Chinese.

Nick: So why are they doing it?

Jim: You know as well as I do: these are bureaucrats who shouldn’t be there in the first place. Power corrupts, and it has.

You look at the beginning of the First World War, the Emperor, who was 85 years old at the time, made nine demands on the Serbians. Serbia met eight of his demands. For whatever reason they couldn’t meet the ninth. And so they said, “Okay, that’s it… war.” And then everybody was at war.

The bureaucrats everywhere piled in with great enthusiasm—great headlines about how the war will be over by Christmas. By the way, whenever wars start, the headlines always say the war will be over by Christmas, at least in Christian nations. But six months after that war started, everybody looked around and said, “What the hell are we doing?” This is madness. Millions of people are being killed. Billions of dollars are being lost. This is not good for anybody. And why did it start? Nobody could even tell you why it started, but unfortunately it went on for four years with massive amounts of destruction, all because a few bureaucrats and an old man couldn’t get their acts together. None of that was necessary. Nearly all wars start like that.

If you examine the beginning of any war, years later you ask, “How did it happen? Why did it happen?” And usually there’s not much explanation. The winners write history, so the winners always have a good explanation, but more objective people are usually confused.

Nick: Excellent points that you make, Jim. I want to shift gears a little bit. I know you’re a fan of agriculture, and parts of Russia and Ukraine are among the most fertile regions in the world. Investing there is a nice way to get into agriculture and also Russia at the same time. What do you think about companies and stocks that own and operate farmland in that region?

Jim: Well, historically you’re right. Ukraine was one of the major breadbaskets of the world, and some of those vast Russian lands were great breadbaskets at times in history. Communism can and does ruin everything it touches. It ruined Soviet agriculture, but many of those places have great potential and will revive.

I haven’t actually gone and examined the soil myself to see that it’s still fertile, but I assume it is because you see the production numbers. That part of the world should be and will be great agricultural producers again. It’s just a question of when and who.

By the way, I have recently become a director of a large Russian phosphorous/fertilizer company, partly for the reasons you’re discussing.

Nick: We were talking about Russia and Iran. I’ve had the chance to travel to Iran. It has a remarkably vibrant stock market, all things considered. It’s not heavily dependent on natural resources. They have consumer goods companies, tech companies, and so forth.

Do you see the potential for Iran to open up anytime soon, maybe a Nixon-goes-to-China moment?

Jim: I bought Iranian shares in 1993, and over the next few years it went up something like 47 times, so it was an astonishing success. I got a lot of my money out, but some of it is still trapped there. I don’t know if I could ever find it, but I took so much out it didn’t really matter.

Yes, I know that there’s an interesting market there. I know there’s a vibrant society there. I know huge numbers of Iranians who are under 30, and they want to live a different life. It is changing slowly, but it’s in the process.

Part of it, of course, is because the West has characterized them as demons and evil, which makes it harder. I was never very keen on things like that. Throughout history and in my own experience, engagement is usually a better way to change things than ignoring people and forcing them to close in and get bitter about the outside world.

So I don’t particularly approve of our approach or anybody’s approach to Iran. I certainly don’t approve of old man Khamenei’s approach to Iran either. There were mistakes made in the early days on both sides. But that’s all changing now. I see great opportunities in Iran. If they don’t open to the West, they’re going to open to Asia and to Russia.

There are fabulous opportunities in Iran, with over 70 million people, vast assets, lots of entrepreneur-type people, smart people, and educated people. Iran is Persia. Persia was one of the great nations of world history for many centuries.

So it’s not as though they were a bunch of backward people sitting over there who can’t read or find other people on the map. Persia has enormous potential, and they will develop it again.

Nick: I completely agree, and we’re looking at Iran closely, too. If the West doesn’t open up to Iran, it’s going to lose out to the Chinese and the Russians, who are going to gobble up that opportunity and really eat the Americans’ lunch.

Of course with the sanctions, it’s pretty much illegal for Americans to invest in Iran right now.

Jim: That wasn’t always the case. Years ago, if the investment was less than a certain amount of money, and some other things, there were no problems. I don’t know the details of the current law.

Nick: It’s difficult to keep up with, because the story is constantly changing.

Jim: Well, that’s the brilliance of bureaucrats; they always have something to do. It gives them ongoing job security.

Nick: Exactly.

Nick: Another place we have on our list is Kurdistan.

Jim: The Kurds have been a pretty powerful group of people for a long time. I hope they can pull it together. An independent Kurdistan would be good for Turkey and good for everybody else. Unfortunately, again, you have all these bureaucrats who don’t like change.

I’ve certainly got it on my radar, and maybe I’ll bump into you in Iran, or Russia, or Kurdistan, or who knows where.

Nick: Sounds good Jim, we’ll be in touch.

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Publicus's picture

He lost a lot of money already if he bought during Crimea times.

LetThemEatRand's picture

I really like Rogers even though I distrust him.  If nothing else, he has been speaking frankly about money printing and reckless central bank policy for about as long as anyone.  But when it comes to his predictions, you have to bear in mind that he can put a couple of percent of his wealth on black and not care if it goes south, and of course he talks his book.

nmewn's picture

"I really like Rogers even though I distrust him."

I never go for the affable cad routine, to each his own.

LetThemEatRand's picture

I get your point, but I have the same love/hate relationship with Schiff.  He's a profiteer but at least he calls out TPTB.  I wouldn't give him my money either.

nmewn's picture

I never liked any of them, ever. They are in business to get their money in & out first. I'll be one of the few who can truly say, starve motherfuckers, I had nothing to do with it.

flacon's picture

Jim Rogers ... Little House On The Prairie. 

roadlust's picture

He's just another bowtie asshole.  "Investing" in Russia while they invade and kill citizens of a small neighboring country trying to defend their borders.   He'd invest in child molesters if he could make money.  Of course by the looks of him, he already is.

Jam's picture

"He'd invest in child molesters if he could make money."

Are you saying the FTSE is not worth buying now?

Bokkenrijder's picture

Sure people, if you think that you can no longer trust the US (forfeiture!), then go ahead and invest your money in a country where you can be 100% sure that the local maffia owns all the police, all the politicians and all the judges...

Does Jim have his own little pump-and-dump scheme going here and people like him using ZH as a platform to plug their 'end-of-the-world' scenarios to a large group of naive idealists who desperately want to believe the 'Russia and China are the good guys' bullshit?

Bendromeda Strain's picture

then go ahead and invest your money in a country where you can be 100% sure that the local maffia owns all the police, all the politicians and all the judges...

Are you talking about Russia or Ukraine? Russia and China may not be "the good guys", but I see their behavior as a mostly rational response to provocation from the increasingly desperate money changers.

Clowns on Acid's picture

Hey Rand - I agree to a certain extent. But would you want Rogers to NOT talk his book? I view it as Rogers is putting his $ where his mouth is. Not too many people do that. Also Rogers has a long time horizon, so the dips etc that occur do not faze him is the perceived value is still there. He doesn't lever his bets more than 2:1, so he can withstand corrections for a log time.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

I am not sure he was entirely talking his book. He was wanting us to do the investment before him. WRT Iran, he pushed it and then said he did not know the laws re Iran indicating that he was not in there yet....

supercelld's picture
supercelld (not verified) Publicus Feb 12, 2015 6:13 AM

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do... www.globe-report.com

noben's picture
noben (not verified) Feb 11, 2015 9:09 PM

I once heard that the best deals are to be had "When there's blood in the streets".

Is this a variation on the same theme?

fascismlover's picture

That is the only place that "new" is at.  Old is everywhere and expect old returns from such places.  ALWAYS invest in the new...be it the BRICS, any crippled economy or anything no one would touch.  You will be the billionaire you always wanted to be if you could only stick to that once the greene flows. 

ali-ali-al-qomfri's picture

yes, but one caveat, when there is someone else's blood in the streets.

 

nmewn's picture

Buy Russian stawks!

(They won't know wtf to do with that comment...lol)

noben's picture
noben (not verified) nmewn Feb 11, 2015 9:20 PM

Too bad you can't buy farmland or other land in Russia, unless you're a citizen.

We'll probably get Doug Casey or Simon Black chime in on the citizenship part, although I think that Black is not big on Russia. In the past he's promoted happening places like the Baltic states and Ukraine.

If I were Putin, who is trying to diversify the economy and skill set of seasoned/experienced people (Western engineers, scientist, entrepreneurs), I'd package them a Golden Welcome Wagon of some sort: Low taxes, citizenship (to buy personal and small biz property), freedom from FATCA (for US peeps), far fewer regulations, lower CPA and legal costs, organic food (no Monsanto inside), cheap flights on Aeroflot to sunny, warm places, hot & cold running Russian women (to make Ameruskie biz & whiz kids)...

nmewn's picture

Its like a regular paradise on erf!

Where do I sign up, can I bring my guns & my laptop? ;-)

EndOfDayExit's picture

On the surface it is a great idea, but unfortunately for Russia that Golden Welcome Wagon has always been heading to GULAG very shortly thereafter. At least for those of their expats who chose to come back. Thank you very much but I am not taking it.

Bendromeda Strain's picture

Yer right, the American gulag will be somewhat warmer...

Augustus's picture

If Putin were to set up those policies he would not need much from western nations.  Of course the problem is that once someone has established something successful the business catches the eye of he local version of oligarch.  Ownership and investment gets transfered and business plundered.

JuliaS's picture

Not an obstacle really, since one can buy Russian citizenship. I'm not talking about investor visas or anything like that. Every kind of legal paper in Russia can be bought and it's done under the table by the same agencies that issue legitimate documents - not by underground forgers. What they do with citizenship specifically is they have a list of residences either scheduled for demolition. They write you in as a former resident - something that cannot be disproved once the house is gone, and they construct entire life histories in a similar fashion depending on how many support documents one requires. Passport cost is ridiculously low - $5-8K. A driver's license, in comparison, is about $1K. And they don't even call buying license "cheating". It's presented as a fast track option for people who want to be documented up front in exchange for a verbal obligation to learn the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel.

Any document in Russia can be bought. Any document. No exceptions, and the farther away from Moscow you choose to conduct business, the cheaper it gets.

nmewn's picture

Sounds like they've got that whole crony thingy all figured out...kinda sorta...legalize it.

And just think, in other nations people go to jail for abuse of their government positions.

Well, they used to anyways ;-)

JuliaS's picture

Yep! The only thing to remember is that it's a double edged sword when it comes to legal protection in Russia. No document will defend your property against the higher bidder with a fancier stack of papers. That's the hidden trap.

Good investment opportunities in Russia are like cheap houses in Detroit. They're cheap for a reason.

lakecity55's picture

Yeah, but in the US, the Government gives those documents away for Free!

Manipuflation's picture

You have it pegged at the end very well.  Russian women who are still citizens are handy to have around.  How much land do you want?  But there is just a slight tinge of corruption going on in Russia just so you know.  I do like the Russian women though.  I want two or three of them but that won't work.  They would gang up on me and tell me to fuck off.  One is enough. 

lakecity55's picture

If Russia can establish a base in Greece/Turkey, they can reverse the tactical advantage and turn the encirclement back on ZATO, like they did to von Paulus' Army in WW2. The spread of ZATO rockets and radars edging towards Russia could be mated by a Russian base in the soft underbelly of Europe, as the Allies did to Germany.

 

http://ww2today.com/31st-january-1943-german-6th-army-surrenders-at-stal...

 

Manipuflation's picture

I am not sure why somone would junk you for that link LC55.  The damage is still evident in Russia from The Great Patriotic War.  If you ever get a chance, go to St. Petersburg/Leningrad/Petrograd.  What happened there was brutal to say the least.  You get a lump in your throat when you see it.  

When I went to southern Russia I saw where the German Sixth Army stalled out near Rostov.  Remember that the Mongolians overran Russia and are the only ones who ever have and how you end up with brunette women with blue eyes.  The only place I have ever seen a woman like that is in Russia.  They are such beautiful women and you stop and trip because they catch your eye.  Not only that, they are not stupid either and know their history.  A history lesson and a political debate are liable to come up during sex followed by "are going to fuck me or not?".  Yes, those are the right kind of women for me but I suspect that two of them would kill me at my age.  If you were like 25 that would be a different story.         

Volkodav's picture

Can't buy is not exactly true, if you know right connections

Otherwise...again, if connected, can get very long term lease.

There are many non Rus operating farms

We first met a set of professionals building these starts in 2008

Volga regions Saratov, Perm

Also, I know of one American married Russian, moved to small village of her birth, family and given right to all land they can manage well, freepay. Work morning milk factory, then rest of daywork farm. Land is idle otherwise, so this is decision of village authority..This is different region not far east of Moscow.

 

Bokkenrijder's picture

@ noben

"If I were Putin, who is trying to diversify the economy and skill set of seasoned/experienced people (Western engineers, scientist, entrepreneurs), I'd package them a Golden Welcome Wagon of some sort..."

You have a good point, but this is also exactly the reason why Russia is NOT a world super power anymore and why Russia has more or less isolated itself. Sure, they have some 'friends' in Egypt, China and but these friends are not the kind of enterpreneurs that you need in order to get a stalled/undiversified economy moving again. Despite all the fairytales that the naive people here so desperately want to believe, but Russia and China are NOT free countries where people can enjoy the fruits of their labour! Everything is owned and 'regulated' by chronies of the regimes, and ordinary citizens don't stand a chance of improving their lives, unless they emigrate to Western Europe, the Middle East or the US!

Creepy A. Cracker's picture

Hey, the superpower of Greece is about to join Russia.  How can they not boom after that?!?!?!

disabledvet's picture

There is an exodus of Russians out of Russia.

Why would anyone want to invest in that?

Winston Churchill's picture

Ranked 2nd in the world for IMMIGRATION, not emigration..

Check your facts.

tarabel's picture

 

 

Lots of Russians playing the GTFO card as well, you have to admit. Plus the figures I see are from 2012 at the latest.  I suspect that things are not moving in the same direction as previously. Unless you count Crimeans as immigrants.

Niall Of The Nine Hostages's picture

Russia is a treasure trove of natural resources the world actually needs, far more than it needs the latest iTurd "designed in California."

The current wave of emigration is of already wealthy liberals with more loyalty to money than Russia, who prospered in Yeltsin's day when Russia was a debt-ridden basket case, and the people who did all the work were fleeing Russia to escape western debt-peonage. They're not as rich or powerful as they used to be, and they've figured that if they haven't overthrown Putin by now, he's not going anywhere.

Their loss is Russia's gain---and the gain of the 80-plus percent of Russians who like having a president who actually takes their side in disputes, not that of Western bloodsuckers.

Cacete de Ouro's picture

Russia is as corrupt as the U.S. and all other regimes. Putin used to be a supplier for elite pedophiles. They are all in it together the Russian and US/CIA and UK elite pedo trafficking networks.

tarabel's picture

 

 

So where do Brazilians get their little boys from?

Oh, that's right, you were a teacher.

Boubou's picture

Unfortunately this is true. We are binary at best - we can deal with two states , in this case good guys and bad guys, and we need to believe in something or someone.

In this case US has so debased itself since the 1950's that love has turned to hate.

It has got so bad we applaud any country who puts up token resistance to US supremacy.

But I don't see any world leader who deserves our respect.

Idaho potato head's picture

That can change in an instant

FieldingMellish's picture

His calls have been pretty bad over the last couple of years. Maybe its time his luck changed.

pupdog1's picture

I can't remember a time when Rogers and his little bow tie were actually right.

AGuy's picture

"I can't remember a time when Rogers and his little bow tie were actually right."

Gold Boom from 2002 to 2012

Housing Bubble 2004 to 2008

China economic boom

Rising cost of food and other commodites

Fed would print money 2007 to 2009

QE would not work 2009 to current

 

Jim isn't selling anything. He speaks his mind and tells you how he see is.

 

freakscene's picture

2008/2009'ish i remember watching an interview with him and his investment advice was to buy a farm and learn how to be a provider

best advice i ever took

29.5 hours's picture

 

 

Rogers is profoundly correct in his core point: beyond the complexities of economics, banking, trade, currency, markets--the fundamental issue is one of approaching war.

 

 

lakecity55's picture

TPTB had to know when they created the Euro that one day this would happen with the prolific southern countries.

All they had to do was wait until one went Greek.

Now, they get to check some of that Georgia Guidestone stuff off the list.

They have banks in Russia and China. All the have to do is bide their time.

They win either way.