SCA, Turnarounds hold webinars on stress-testing, Covid-19 impact at Trade & Industry Chamber
Strategic Choice Advisory and our partner advisory firm Turnarounds (http://www.turn-arounds.com/) held two joint webinars at the Russian Trade and Industry Chamber (TPP). The first seminar was held on May 28 in Russian and was devoted to stress-testing and restructuring for businesses negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. SCA Managing Partner and CEO Andrew Afanasiev and Turnarounds Managing Partner Ilya Gnoensky spoke at length about issues faced by companies in Russia nowadays, and the methodologies we use for stress-testing, also giving practical advice for effective business restructuring.
The second seminar was held on Jun 8 in English for foreign companies working in Russia, and was devoted to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the outlook for the Russian economy. We presented our balanced scorecard for current and expected performance of various industries across the board, and also shared insights on emerging opportunities and new business models that can be pursued by international companies in Russia. The seminar was actively attended by Asian companies working in or interested in the Russian market, and has led to negotiations on market entry, especially in the healthcare sector.
SCA starts providing IT system integration services for new online products
Viewing the latest trends with Covid-19 lockdown and self-isolation measures boosting interest in online services, and having significant experience in advising on launching new IT products, Strategic Choice Advisory has decided to broaden its service range to include IT product development and system integration.
In SCA's opinion, the current situation is quite similar to 2010-2012, when the global financial crisis triggered major investment in cost-attractive IT products based on cloud computing, including video-conferencing, online education, information storage and security, and etc. Despite obvious interest in "remote products" from both service providers and consumers, there is significant risk of scores of market players trying to cram into the new "windows of opportunities". Like then, this can easily result in further price dumping and freemium models ruining ARPU levels and profit margins, plus each new market entrant trying to develop their own solutions may undermine efficiency and investment returns.
During that period, SCA focused extensively on assisting IT service companies in securing effective product concepts and operational processes. Afterwards, SCA worked mostly on IT systems tied to specific hardware or facilities, be it medical equipment and medical clinics, shipyards, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), etc. Now and again, our consulting practice is ready to rise to the challenge with online services! Simultaneously, we will also be helping with product launch and initial marketing efforts, helping products gain traction until the project owners are ready to fully take over.
Working relentlessly in healthcare and foraying into adjacent areas, we would like to start by providing these IT services especially to beauty, wellness and health enterprises. Willingly or forcedly, companies in this sector are driven to explore online presence possibilities, which should actually complement their current expansion to new market segments in a bid to differentiate. We strongly believe that digital is the way to go, to replenish cash flows , but also to gain a foothold in the online domain, where more and more consumers will be looking to obtain the services they desire.
We have prepared presentations for digital beauty salons (available only in Russian, as the services are provided on the Russian market), and fitness studios, to outline our capabilities and service offering. Similar products can be developed in adjacent segments, e.g. spa salons; yoga, stretching, dance, etc. studios; mental wellness, and other areas.
SCA teams up with Turn-arounds to provide stress-testing services at tumultuous time
Strategic Choice Advisory and Turn-arounds (http://www.turn-arounds.com/), a Moscow-based, US-originated advisory firm, have agreed to jointly provide stress-testing (resilience testing) and restructuring advisory services, including for companies negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Resilience testing allows quickly, but efficiently gauging company performance and inputting key company data into specially-designed financial analysis templates, to assess the company's near- and mid-term prospects and possible business recovery options.
Revenue decline scenarios and major disruptions are quantified and weighed up against the company's resources and potential, taking into account the expected market dynamics. Several turnaround options are offered to the client, ranging from cost-cutting and cash flow re-balancing, to finding alternative income sources and business models. If a client so desires, further in-depth assessments may be performed, and solutions developed, based on more detailed financial modeling.
SCA and Turn-arounds have been cooperating closely over the last 5 years, from holding joint business seminars for expats working in Russia, to joint business development in selected areas. We are looking forward to working together to let clients gain clarity and confidence in these challenging times. For more details about our service, please check out our brochure (more), and feel free to contact us to discuss your needs and goals. We are here to help!
Due diligence of large troubled bank, restructuring advisory for main credit assets completed
SCA has completed a large-scale advisory project started in Nov 2019, performing due diligence (DD) of a large Russian bank with significant presence in heavy industry and real estate development sectors. The work was conducted in the interests of the bank's new biggest shareholder, who increased his stake by buying out the stake held by the previous majority owner. The latter also used to control the bank's formidable credit assets in the abovementioned industries, and is now behind bars in the framework of criminal proceedings initiated by other large lenders/ co-owners of the heavy industry assets.
Strategic Choice Advisory was tasked with thoroughly investigating the bank's activities, uncovering any possible dubious schemes and violations, weighing up the bank's financial and market prospects, as well as risks of further prosecution by regulators and law enforcement bodies. In process, SCA also performed financial modeling of the vertically integrated heavy industry assets; made conclusions on relevant credit risks for the bank, and recommendations on the assets' performance optimization and its expected impact. In the real estate segment, we assessed the adequacy of asset valuations, the market prospects and expected asset sale revenues for the bank.
One of the key questions posed by the majority shareholder was how big is the capital deficiency vs. capital requirement ratios, and whether it makes sense to continue injecting money into the bank. For this, we also calculated the net operating margin of each product, and determined the viability of the bank's market strategy. Corresponding conclusions were made, together with possible options for rescuing or dissolving the bank, drawing praise from the client for bringing due clarity and substantiation for future business decisions.
Work completed on major Japanese bank's assignment in gas & chemical sector in Turkmenistan
Strategic Choice Advisory has finished work on a long-term assignment in Turkmenistan, started in the summer of 2018, for a major Japanese bank financing heavy industry and infrastructure projects in the country. The job centered on conducting feasibility analyses for large-scale investment projects (USD 1.6-3.5bn each), and quarterly assessments of the situation at key assets funded by the bank. This included both existing and soon-to-be-launched plants making urea & ammonia, PP & PE, synthetic motor fuels (gasoline, diesel fuel, LPG) produced from natural gas (gas-to-gasoline technology), and other chemical products.
The work saw regular market supply & demand balance calculations, market trends and prospects analysis, and feasibility assessments for specific existing and new chemical products, manufactured at the plants built by Japanese engineering companies. Also, SCA evaluated the prospects of the bank's and Japanese engineering companies' participation in further major gas field development projects in Turkmenistan; tracked and evaluated other emerging opportunities for the bank's diversified credit portfolio, and performed general macroeconomic and political analysis, supported by our network of sources in the country. All of the chemical plants SCA worked on have now been launched, while further evaluation for some of the new products still continues.
SCA is very thankful for this exciting opportunity to work in the highly non-transparent, yet quickly and steadfastly modernizing Turkmen economy, and to analyze neighboring Central Asia and Caucasus markets in process. For SCA's Managing Partner and CEO Andrew Afanasiev, the projects with the Japanese bank allowed revisiting the regional economy he and his team at ISI Emerging Markets (https://www.isimarkets.com/) covered when he worked there in 2001-2008. SCA is looking forward to further assignments in the region, and is happy to support Japanese and other foreign investors interested in these vibrant markets.
Japan Center and SCA hold major Japan-Russia SME Forum at Japan Embassy in Moscow
Japan Center, a not-for-profit organization for promoting international cooperation, managed by the Japanese government, and Strategic Choice Advisory, together organized the 1st Japan-Russia SME Forum at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow on Nov 15, 2019. The event gathered well over 200 participants, including representatives of 12 Japanese companies already working in Russia or keenly interested in doing business here. Most of these Japanese companies pertain to high-technology segments in various economic sectors, although there were also enterprises making traditional Japanese products like sake, antiques and works of art, popular in Russia, as well as various machinery & equipment.
The Forum featured presentations by the Japanese participants in the Embassy's main hall, and a bustling networking area spanning two large adjacent facilities. Among the Russian participants was a large cohort of IT companies, especially those employing machine-learning algorithms, as Japanese participants are interested in entering the Russian market in this space, and also finding promising Russian products to take to market together both in Russia and on global markets.
The lively and spirited discussions, flowing into the very fine banquet, organized by Ichiban Sushi restaurant chain, continued well past the allocated timeframe... The last of the Forum participants finally left the Embassy grounds more than two hours after the the event was due to close. We sincerely hope we are forgiven by the Embassy staff! We wish all the participants to find and successfully utilize opportunities for cooperation, and will be happy to support similar events, going forward!
SCA supports Japan Cardiology & Oncology forum/seminar, facilitates work of Japanese delegation
We have been delighted to participate in the Japan Cardiology & Oncology seminar/forum on Nov 11, 2019, organized by Medical Excellence Japan (MEJ - https://medicalexcellencejapan.org/en/), an organization overseen by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and its private counterpart PJL Inc. (http://www.pjl-inc.co.jp/en/about-us/). The co-organizers were also Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia) association, ROTOBO, and Russia-Japan Business Council.
The event was attended by around 100 Japanese and Russian doctors, equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturers, Russian federal and Moscow regional government officials, and other healthcare experts (more). A similar event was also held on Nov 13 in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Bashkortostan region.
SCA helped arrange participation of a number of Russian doctors and state officials from relevant healthcare areas in the event in Moscow, and also organized the Japanese delegation's visit to a leading Russian cardiology center in Moscow on Nov 12. A Japan-Russia cardiology center was established earlier at the facility, under MEJ and PJL's guidance. The parties are now discussing cooperation prospects for the next stage of the cardiology center's development.
SCA CEO speaks at ISI Emerging Markets' Data and Economic Analysis conference in Moscow
Strategic Choice Advisory Managing Partner and CEO Andrew Afanasiev gave a speech on "Analysis of Opaque Country and Industry Markets" at ISI Emerging Markets (https://www.isimarkets.com/) annual "The Art of Data and Industry Analysis" conference in Moscow on Oct 16, 2019. The speech was based on SCA's experience working in Turkmenistan, as well as other non-transparent markets, of which there happen to be aplenty in this part of the world.
This and other similar conferences and seminars, hosted by ISI, have become the definitive events on macroeconomic and industry analysis in recent years, and SCA is especially honored to participate. This particular annual conference gathers heads of economic analysis divisions and other senior officials from major Russian government institutions, including the Central Bank, Economy and Finance Ministries, etc., as well as leading investment banks and research institutions.
Andrew Afanasiev previously served as Global Head of M&A Analytics, and CIS Regional Head of Economic Analysis at ISI Emerging Markets over 2001-2008. SCA is currently a client of ISI's Emerging Markets Information Service (EMIS - https://www.emis.com/) for the Central Asia and Caucasus regions, and acknowledges its indispensable role in SCA's work on these markets.
SCA takes part in Japan Regenerative Medicine/ Immune Oncology forum/seminar in Moscow
SCA was honored to join the Japan Regenerative Medicine/ Immune Oncology forum/seminar at the P.A. Hertsen Moscow Oncology Research Center on Feb 19, 2019, organized by Medical Excellence Japan (MEJ - https://medicalexcellencejapan.org/en/), an organization overseen by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and its private counterpart PJL Inc. (http://www.pjl-inc.co.jp/en/about-us/). The event co-organizers were ROTOBO, Russian Healthcare Ministry's Radiology Medical and Research Center, and P.A. Hertsen Moscow Oncology Research Center.
The event drew significant interest and was attended by several hundred participants, including doctors, researchers, equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturers, Russian federal and Moscow regional government officials, and other healthcare experts (more).
SCA helped arrange participation of Russian doctors and experts from relevant healthcare areas in the event. We will be honored to support Japanese market leaders in this field in their Russian market entry, continuing to serve the crucial cancer treatment sphere.
SCA completes work on shaping VC fund's investment strategy in global UAV sector
SCA has finalized its work on the investment strategy of a Russia-based, transportation- and IT-focused investment fund, considering entering the global unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector. Previously, this investment fund, with which SCA has been cooperating for nearly 10 years, made a number of successful early stage investments and subsequent exits in the transportation IT sphere both inside Russia and internationally.
SCA's job was to analyze international market (ex-Russia) trends and prospects in all segments of the UAV market (more than 10, in all, per our breakdown), from hardware to software and drone platforms, and even flying cars and car-to-drone convertible vehicles. The work spanned Asia Pacific and Western European (Europe, USA, and Israel), and selected regional emerging markets.
A key component of our scope of work was calculating and providing insights on average deal multiples (entry and exit), and making recommendations on the most promising market segments, deal structuring and valuations. As a result, SCA made its contribution to the fund's investment strategy in this market, for their further consideration and detailing. This was an exciting deep-dive into a robust new market, and we were happy to bring our skills in deal valuation and IT to the fore.
SCA CEO speaks on investors' requirements at Russian Trade & Industry Chamber annual meeting
SCA Managing Partner and CEO Andrew Afanasiev gave a speech on "Drafting and Presenting Investment Projects to International Investors; Specifics of Working with Asian Investors" during a methodology seminar in the framework of the annual meeting of Russian Trade and Industry Chamber (TPP) heads of regional divisions on Sep 28, 2018. The two-day event saw presentations by speakers from various financial service segments, and active discussions between participants.
In his speech, Andrew outlined the common misconceptions among Russian businessmen about how investors review such projects, and the differences between the project initiators' and investors' approach. He also made specific recommendations to companies doing fundraising and interested in attracting Asian investors.
SCA typically acts as a buy-side advisor, catering to investors and banks, and focuses extensively on servicing clients from the Asia Pacific region in Russia and other countries. Our consulting practice has been cooperating with TPP closely over the years, and is happy to support TPP and its members in their investment activities.
Work finalized on series of projects on latest generation ELISA diagnostic equipment
SCA has completed a string of projects on the feasibility analysis of new generation, microchip-based ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) diagnostic equipment, developed by the Russian market leader in medical facility disinfection equipment. The project owner is the investment vehicle of one of the most famous, revered Russian technology universities, whose disinfection technologies are used in medical facilities all over Russia, and exported to many developed and emerging markets around the world.
SCA's healthcare team comprising medical facility management, laboratory diagnostics, microbiology and other medical experts, was tasked with assessing the new diagnostic equipment's viability from technology, economics, and market viewpoints; and setting product and business development priorities. We assessed the market volume, development trends and prospects of all applicable diagnostic market segments, did thorough competitive analysis, substantiated pricing levels and policies, and prioritized the most lucrative segments for our client.
The University's investment fund is currently preparing to start mass production, having successfully completed preliminary trials and started batch production for its clients among medical facilities. Further work will involve finalizing the mass production business plan, and supporting manufacturing launch and product rollout. We hope the new products will facilitate broader and much faster testing in key target segments at a fraction of the current prices, and dramatically improve healthcare service levels for patients and medical facilities.
SCA concludes analysis of international best practice in shipyard logistics efficiency
SCA has finalized its work with a Russian state-owned shipbuilding company comprising three wharfs, spread out across different regions. As the government has decreed for shipbuilding companies to present their efficiency improvement programs, our client set about analyzing international best practice in shipyard logistics.
Having reviewed available business models and industry best practice, in the broader European region we selected the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and Turkey (touching also upon respective shipbuilding companies' operations in Romania and the UK); and in the Asia Pacific region - China, South Korea, and Japan (including also operations in Singapore).
For this assignment, we effectively pooled our existing contact network in respective markets, and arranged company interviews and site visits to a number of wharfs, making detailed reports of their operations and logistics management systems and processes. As a result, several unexpected revelations were made on where best and worst practice actually resides in various logistics aspects. Subsequently, we offered our ecommendations and made practical advice to our client, which now proceeds with its overall efficiency improvement plans.
JGC Corporation, Hokuto Social Medical Corporation launch rehabilitation clinic in Vladivostok
The investment arm of Japanese engineering major JGC Corporation, which operates extensively in the healthcare sector, and Hokkaido-based hospital and outpatient clinic network Hokuto Social Medical Corporation, together launched a rehabilitaion center in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East region (more). The clinic focuses on convalescence stage patients (post-trauma, post-surgery, post-stroke), and patients with chronic musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. The two Japanese shareholders are investing around USD 3mn at the starting phase.
From the start of 2017, SCA performed feasibility analysis, clinic operating model selection and concept design; and supported the clinic's shareholders in launching the new medical facility. We explained the varied and often convoluted details of government regulation; worked closely with corresponding federal, regional and municipal government bodies, and developed a set of proposals for legislative changes to facilitate the foreign-invested clinic's activities. SCA also contributed to the shareholder agreement, charter, distribution of roles and responsibilities between shareholders, and key managerial staff evaluation.
We are very happy that Japanese best practice in rehabilitation will now become available to patients in Vladivostok, the capital of Primorskiy Krai region, and other patients in the Far East!
Hokuto Social Medical Corporation also runs another clinic in the city, together with PJL Inc. (http://www.pjl-inc.co.jp/en/about-us/), private counterpart of Medical Excellence Japan (MEJ - https://medicalexcellencejapan.org/en/), an organization overseen by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare; and two local partners. Simultaneously with our work on the new rehabilitation clinic, we also advised the Japanese shareholders on various efficiency and operating model aspects of this original facility in Vladivostok.
SCA finishes feasibility study, efficiency improvement program for troubled oil refinery
SCA has completed its work and issued its final judgment on an oil refinery in Russia's Povolzhye (Volga) federal district, and various affiliated assets, in the interests of the refinery's shareholder (one of Russia's biggest investment funds) and main lender (top-tier Russian bank). To date, well over RUB 30bn has been provided in mostly debt, and also equity funding to the refinery, but the refinery has been struggling to repay and has had to be refinanced multiple times by the bank. The question was thus what had gone wrong, and is there any way to salvage the assets and minimize losses for the bank and shareholder investment fund.
In the course of our work spanning most of this year, we closely examined all documentation pertaining to this group of assets; made site inspections; reviewed crude oil and oil product specifications, as well as the sales portfolio, to verify the pricing models and actual margins; and suggested divers technological optimization solutions. Multiple attempts were made to improve the financial result, some of which were implemented at the refinery during our work there.
The bottom line proved highly discouraging, though, and our final recommendation is to tear down the entire refinery complex and write off around 90% of the disbursed loans. Despite the refinery using crude oil with ultra-low sulphur content, and its products selling at a premium, especially on external markets, the mistakes and violations committed during construction, as well as scale miscalculations (there is by far not enough light crude oil available for the entire planned production volume), the refinery is unable to repay and service most of its debts.
Due to various other risks posed by the fraught behavior of the co-owners and management of the group of assets, we strongly hope our recommendations will be followed in full, despite the drastically negative impact on the bank's balance sheet.
Strategic Choice makes strategic decision to service clients more inside Asian markets
Following an extensive two-week trip around Japan and talking to multiple clients, business partners and contacts there, we have decided to step up our work on markets outside Russia, namely in Southeast Asia, India, and Central Asia. So far, we have been doing projects in different markets outside Russia every now and then, but mostly our efforts have been focused on servicing foreign clients on projects in Russia (including with the help of our consultants based in Asia Pacific countries - Japan, South Korea, China and Hong Kong). Also, we continue working with our Russian clients on projects both inside Russia, and in the Asia Pacific and other places.
We strongly feel that now is the time to expand our presence into new countries, following investment flows from Japanese and other companies we work with. To do this, we are now reaching out to contacts in our new target markets, including analysts and consultants SCA Managing Partner & CEO Andrew Afanasiev used to work with during his time as Global Head of M&A Analytics at ISI Emerging Markets, where he spent 7 years in 2001-2008. We are happy to take on this exciting challenge and are looking forward to servicing our Japanese and other clients in their work in these markets!
Japanese JGC Corporation launches second phase of greenhouse business in Khabarovsk region
Leading Japanese engineering company JGC Corporation, together with its local partner, have launched the second phase of greenhouse business JGC Evergreen in the Avangard accelerated economic development zone in Russia's Khabarovsk region. The official opening ceremony will be held later this year. The greenhouse area thus increases from 2.5 to 5 ha, as the company continues growing cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, salads and other greens. In total, over RUB 2bn has been invested in the facility, including RUB 560mn at the first phase. Further plans include boosting area to 10 ha, starting growing strawberry, and expanding the sales network beyond Khabarovsk region (neighboring regions beware!).
SCA conducted a feasibility study for the project back in 2013-2014, examining the first two production phases, and remains in close contact with JGC. Originally, we analyzed the regional vegetable markets of three potential target regions in the Far East, selected the optimal region for starting business and sales, compared operating model options, performed financial modeling with special attention paid to different energy resource options, and developed the sales policy. Also, we evaluated on-site conditions and the supposed local partner Energoimpuls+ (giving a very positive assessment), whose brownhouse area JGC eventually acquired. We are continuing to cheer for JGC Corporation's success, and are happy to support any further initiatives by Japanese investors in Russia and the CIS.
SCA concludes feasibility analysis of Japanese rehabilitation clinic, to be launched in Vladivostok
We have completed the bulk of our work on the feasibility analysis of a rehabilitation clinic project, considered now by the investment arm of Japanese engineering major JGC Corporation (which has an extensive presence in the healthcare sector), and Hokkaido-based hospital and outpatient clinic network Hokuto Social Medical Corporation. The proposed clinic will focus on convalescence stage patients (post-trauma, post-surgery, post-stroke), and patients with chronic musculoskeletal and neurological disorders.
Per our scope of work, we performed detailed analysis of the regulatory framework, various operating model and clinic concept options; and financial modeling to assess expected client flows and profitability. Corresponding recommendations were thus made to our client. Working closely with corresponding Russian government bodies, we also developed a set of proposals for legislative changes to facilitate the foreign-invested clinic's activities. Work on the location selection, shareholder agreement, charter, distribution of roles and responsibilities, etc. preparations is now proceeding. We strongly hope that Japanese best practice in this field will soon become available to patients in Vladivostok, Primorsky Krai region, and the greater Far East federal district.
Hokuto Social Medical Corporation also runs another clinic in the city, together with PJL Inc. (http://www.pjl-inc.co.jp/en/about-us/), private counterpart of Medical Excellence Japan (MEJ - https://medicalexcellencejapan.org/en/), an organization overseen by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare; and two local partners. CT, MRI, ultrasound and other diagnostic and treatment procedures are available at the clinic, based in a separate wing of the Stroitel resort in the city.
Simultaneously with our work on the new clinic, we also advised the Japanese shareholders on various efficiency and operating model aspects of this facility .
SCA office moves to new location in downtown Moscow
From May 1, we are moving our office to a new location in a picturesque, historic area. We will surely miss the modern, bustling World Trade Center, but are glad to be back in lovely downtown. Our new address is 20A Bronnaya M. str., Moscow, 123104, Russia. We look forward to seeing you there and continuing our cooperation!
Concept, financial modeling, partnership structuring completed for leading Russian clinic network
SCA has finalized our 9-month work with one of the largest Russian clinic networks Expert Group, operating under the Clinic Expert brand for multifunctional diagnostic and treatment facilities, and MRT Expert for specialized MRI centers (#2 in Russia). As of the date of writing, the group comprises 42 MRI and 5 multifunctional clinics all across Russia.
Our role was developing the concept and strategy of the overall business and multifunctional and specialized clinics for the next stage of the Group's expansion, putting together a KPI system in order to boost efficiency, and performing financial modeling for the rapidly expanding multifunctional clinic segment. Among the projects we have worked on are the soon-to-be-launched clinics/ hospitals in Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, and other cities.
We are also working on attracting strategic partners from the Asia Pacific region, to bring their expertise and know-how to complement Expert Group's extensive experience and success on the local market. Several potential options are now being discussed by the respective companies. This work is being conducted together with IMG Advisers in Moscow.
We consider the experience of working with Expert Group's shareholders and management to be one of the most enriching projects we have ever had, one where we could learn continuously from these business leaders and medical professionals, and also make new friendships we will continue to cherish, going forward.