pursuits

Czech Billionaire in Russia for ‘Long Haul’ as Recession Sets In

Czech billionaire Petr Kellner said his PPF Group NV will keep investing in Russia, looking past the lack of a short-term solution to the country’s economic crisis that’s driving out foreign capital.

Home Credit BV bore the brunt of the “adverse circumstances” in Russia that now shape the business environment there, Kellner, whose investment group is the consumer lender’s majority owner, said in introductory remarks to PPF’s 2014 annual report distributed Wednesday. Home Credit swung to a loss of 60 million euros ($66.3 million) last year from a profit of 324 million euros in 2013.

“We know that there is no short-term solution to Russia’s economic crisis,” the 51-year-old billionaire said. “Nevertheless, PPF is in Russia for the long haul and will continue to invest there in the future.”

The richest Czech is sticking it out in a country that’s enduring an exodus of international financial firms after last year’s ruble collapse devastated consumer demand. Crippled by its first recession since 2009, Russia is starved of investment as U.S. and European Union sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine limit access to international markets and spark capital outflows.

A selloff in oil is helping drive down the value of the ruble, sending it more than 6 percent weaker in the past month against the dollar, the third-worst performance among 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Kellner keeps a low profile in his homeland. The last time he gave an interview was in 2012 to a local newspaper.

“We don’t run away from problems, we address them,” he said in the report. “And we see them as an opportunity.”

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