Russia may have the kind of official corruption that would make a Sicilian blush, a fairly weak grasp on the rule of law, a pair of would-be czars trading its top two political posts and, now, more orphans than it can give away. It also may have a stock exchange worth as much as the big one with the columns down on Broad Street.
The Moscow Exchange is going public, and wants the share-buying public to pay between US$4 billion and US$4.6 billion for it. By contrast, the London Stock Exchange has a market cap of about US$5.3 billion, and the New York Stock Exchange is selling itself—and the stock markets in Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and Paris, and the super-desirable Liffe futures exchange—for US$8.2 billion.
Of course, buying the Micex may be a bit riskier than buying NYSE Euronext, what with everyone's favorite former KGB agent already weighing in.
The listing—and whether it is viewed to be a success—has emerged as a key component in convincing more Russian companies to float shares in Moscow rather than in other locations such as London. Some foreign investors also need to be convinced that market reforms are taking hold.
"The Micex is an interesting business but it is also a bet on financial reform in Moscow," said Bruce Bower, of Verno Capital, which holds a small stake in the exchange and is considering buying more in the coming offering.
Following the Moscow Exchange's IPO announcement, President Vladimir Putin said all future state privatization offerings should take place in Russia, rather than dual listings in Moscow and London—a structure many state companies have employed before. Most Russian companies, while listed in Moscow, new largely trade in the form of global depositary receipts elsewhere.