President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Usmanov, lately, we have been hearing about you more often as a sponsor in resolving various financial problems in sport, but you are nevertheless the founder of one of our major and successful production companies, Metalloinvest.
Let's start with this. How do you see the economic situation in connection with your company’s activities? What's its status?
Alisher Usmanov: It would be my pleasure, especially since I am happy to report that in addition to Metalloinvest, our holding now also includes the MegaFon telecommunications company, as well as the Mail.Ru internet holding. All three of these companies are united by a group of shareholders.
Today, there are 125,000 individuals working within our group of companies. They are producing a gross corporate product of around $15 billion per year.
The revenues from these companies, which we have united into one bloc, make up several billion dollars. Naturally, all the current changes to our economy play a negative role, especially since they are aggravated by external factors with regard to our country; they make the path toward improving our companies’ technologies more difficult and deter the process of increasing labour productivity.
But at the same time, they are making us consolidate our workforce, primarily to achieve lower costs, to at least maintain the results we had under normal circumstances, when financial resources available for working capital, when all the banks were thrilled to finance us. Banks are ready to do so even now, but due to the well-known circumstances, they are proceeding with caution.
I want to tell you that our industrial holding company, Metalloinvest, has not reduced production; on the contrary, we have increased iron ore production by 3 percent – unfortunately, by only 3 percent.
But over these 4.5 years, we have created the world’s largest holding company, whose work ranges from iron ore processing to the final product used in the most environmentally-friendly technologies in steel production – iron ingots, which, like aluminium, are used in the final manufacturing stage for all metal cycle products.
This makes us very happy and is a great success for us. It increases our company’s labour productivity several-fold and I think that for us today, it important to maintain all the social projects, which we are conducting through two additional channels (we are following your example, when you give the Government instructions to maintain all social obligations).
We are signing social and economic contracts of about $10–15 billion per year with all the regions where our companies operate. In addition, our holding company’s shareholders – myself and a second shareholder – have established our own foundations, and we are carrying out charitable and social projects through these foundations.
It is my pleasure to report that we have opened a 1300-seat hockey centre in Novotroitsk jointly with a shopping centre; it can also be used as a concert hall.
We opened a wonderful theatre in Orsk, Orenburg Region, together with its administration, using money from our foundation – the largest in the Urals region. In Zheleznogorsk, we built two new medical centres. In Belgorod Region, our second shareholder’s foundation built what I think is the best ophthalmological centre in our country, which you visited in Belgorod.
We have many projects like this. In total, our holding company’s shareholders have channelled about 60 billion rubles toward social programmes in the last five years, while our companies have provided 50 billion. I think people trust us, so the heads of regions have working, friendly relations with us, and this is a guarantee for overcoming the difficulties that have been created, shall we say, if not subjectively, then at least not through any fault of our own.
I am confident that we will get through this period and once again get on the express line towards developing our holding company and achieving the goals we set in the very beginning when we created it.
Vladimir Putin: You have already mentioned sports; you are the president of the International Fencing Federation. What events do you have coming up?
Alisher Usmanov: Mr President, I tell everyone that I am proud to be our President’s colleague in sports. You and I were both involved in single combat – when, in addition to yourself, you also have to defeat your opponent.
Since 2006, I have headed the European federation, and in 2008, I was elected president of the International Fencing Federation. This is my sixth year fulfilling these duties and the second year that Russia’s national team was number one in the world championship. This year, the world championship will be held in Moscow, in just two weeks: from July 13th until the 20th. It gives me great pleasure to invite you to the championship. I would like to let you know that the President of the International Olympic Committee [Thomas Bach] also plans to attend our world championships, because, fortunately for us, he is also a member of our federation, a fencer and a former Olympic champion.
We hope that we will be in first place, since we have already won. You know better than me that it is hard to be victorious twice, and to win for the third time will be even harder, but the athletes tell me that they can do it.
In addition to this, we have had other successes in our federation. In combat, for example, which you helped to keep in the Olympic programme, we have finally taken advance action to ensure there will be more fencing on television. We just signed major agreements with Euronews, Eurosport and CNN – they will come to the world championships (we invited them and they agreed).
So I hope my representation of Russia in the Olympic movement has not been in vain. I am proud to be the first Russian to become president of an international federation for an Olympic sport. I hope to justify the nation’s trust in me.
Vladimir Putin: Let us wish our athletes success in the upcoming championships.
Alisher Usmanov: Thank you very much. We will try.