Aton Said to Cut Half of Research as Strategist Moves to Sweden

Aton Capital, the Moscow-based brokerage founded by former Kremlin adviser Yevgeny Yuryev, has cut half of its research team while chief strategist Peter Westin has moved to Sweden, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The cuts were made after negotiations about BNP Paribas SA, France’s largest bank, taking a stake in Aton floundered earlier this year, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the information hasn’t been made public. The team had about 20 people on it previously, they said.

Brokerages in Russia, including Renaissance Capital, controlled by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, and IFC Metropol, have been cutting staff as margins shrink. ING Groep NV, the biggest Dutch bank, said in October that it will close its Russian equities unit, while Milan-based UniCredit SpA said in June that it would shutter its securities operation in Moscow.

“All the recent changes in the company are driven exclusively by the target to make our service more efficient and adjust it to the changing external environment and clients requests,” Stanislav Molchanov, an Aton spokesman, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions today, without commenting directly on the job cuts.

Aton stopped sending clients its daily research note in March, allowing the analysts to concentrate “more on clients’ immediate requests, trading idea generation and fundamental analysis,” he said.

Westin, who rejoined Aton from JPMorgan Chase & Co. four years ago, has moved to Stockholm and will work for Aton on a consulting basis, said the people. Westin remains the brokerage’s chief strategist, Molchanov said.

Yuryev and his partners sold Aton to UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank, in 2006 for $424 million, or four times book value, according to UniCredit Bank Austria AG’s 2007 annual report. UniCredit dropped the Aton name and this year closed its equities business amid increasing competition from state-owned banks. Yuryev retained Aton’s asset-management business and in 2009 started a new broker under the same name, which competes with UniCredit.

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