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Putin may fine tycoons for low utilities investment

Russian Premier Vladimir Putin threatened to slap heavy fines on some of the country's top tycoons for not investing enough in the power sector, while praising Western investors.

In one of his classic appearances, Putin, who has a lengthy track record of market-moving attacks on the nation's business elite, said he was particularly upset by four oligarchs - Vladimir Potanin, Leonid Lebedev, Mikhail Prokhorov and Viktor Vekselberg.

If they fail to fulfill their investment obligations, taken before the crisis when the state agreed to privatize power assets, they will not only face fines but will also be banned from selling power at market prices.

Putin said state-run power firms and foreign power companies, such as Enel, E.ON and Fortum, were sticking to investment obligations. “Meanwhile, our domestic investors have run away,” Putin said as he chaired a meeting on the power sector in Siberia.

“During the crisis we did everything we could to support you. The crisis is fading away so I ask you to fulfill your obligations,” Putin said after overseeing the restart of the giant Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower plant. The dam was restarted after being halted last August following an accident that killed 75 workers.

Dark memories of that accident, that also resulted in higher-than-expected nationwide power price hikes and prompted calls for a new overhaul of the power sector, could have made Putin particularly angry on Wednesday. (Reuters)