‘Pocket investor’ Rakishev to fall into disuse?
After the resignation of Nursultan Nazarbayev as the President of Kazakhstan and election of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the power balance in the national political elite started changing. People close to the country’s leadership are reshuffled. This has directly affected young oligarch and investor Kenes Rakishev. Many online portals are publishing information about suspicious schemes pulled off by the ‘pocket investor’; some of them claim that his accounts are blocked, while Rakishev is on the run. The oligarch is actively refuting such rumors; however, his prospects do not seem rosy nowadays.
The name of Kazakh oligarch Kenes Rakishev became increasingly frequently mentioned in the Russian media after the notorious criminal skirmish near Elements Restaurant in Moscow in late 2015. Its owner, Zhanna Kim, has launched the establishment with the assistance of her Almaty friend Kenes Rakishev. Furthermore, after the arrival of Andrei Kochuikov (Ital’yanets (Italian)), a henchman of Shakro Molodoy, accompanied by bandits to the restaurant to collect a debt from Zhanna Kim, Rakishev sent lawyer Eduard Budantsev to help her. As it is known, the dispute has escalated into a shootout, and attempts to hush it down resulted in a major scandal involving high-ranked officers of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), while the thieves’ world lost its leader.
Later, Kenes Rakishev had tried to cushion the consequences of the incident. Allegedly, he had offered large sums of money to families of Filipp Domaskin and Aleksei Kitaev – fighters under the command of Ital’yanets killed in the shootout. Officially, they were officers of a private security company controlled by Shakro Molodoy.
Rakishev is one of the ten wealthiest people in Kazakhstan; as of May 2019, Forbes has estimated his fortune at $610 million. Officially, he is the Chairman of the Boards of Directors of Fincraft Resources (former SAT & Company) and Net Element, a member of the Board of Directors of Fastlane Ventures, and cofounder of SingulariTeam. In addition, up until recently, Rakishev was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Kazkommertsbank, the largest financial institution in the country. The oligarch owns Fincraft Investments Home Joint Stock Company, shares in Russia-based Petropavlovsk Gold Mining Company and Standard Insurance Company, and 98.19% of BTA Bank that does not have a banking license in Kazakhstan since 2015 but controls banks of the same name in Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Ukraine.
Interestingly, Kenes Rakishev is not considered a successful venture capital investor anymore. The attitude towards him in Kazakhstan is mixed – there are plenty of questions about the origin of his initial capital and ability to pop-up in the right place at the right time. The businessman is a son of prominent politician Khamit Rakishev, who was in charge of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kazakhstan for a long time. In addition, Kenes is the son-in-law of Imangali Tasmagambetov, ex-Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. Reportedly, the main reason behind the successful career of Rakishev junior was his the marriage to Asel Tasmagambetova. This is how he has entered the close circle of Nursultan Nazarbayev, then-President of Kazakhstan. At some point, Rakishev was even considered a possible successor to Yelbasy or future Prime Minister of the republic.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert, and Kenes Rakishev
Because of Rakishev, BTA Bank, one of the largest in Kazakhstan, has fallen under the control of Halyk Bank – the main bank of the country. Initially, the bank belonging to Mukhtar Ablyazov, a political opponent of Nazarbayev, was nationalized. In 2014, Rakishev and Kazkommertsbank have purchased from Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Fund 46.5% of shares in BTA Bank each for some $465 million. As a result, the bank became a part of the Kazkommertsbank Group. By the end of 2015, Rakishev became the owner of the control block of shares (56.75%) in Kazkommertsbank and became the Chairman of its Board of Directors. It is necessary to note that, at the time of the acquisition of BTA Bank's shares, Rakishev officially hadn't possessed sufficient funds for that. Ultimately, in July 2017, Halyk Bank gained the control over Kazkommertsbank. The final beneficiaries of Halyk Bank are Timir and Dinara Kulibaev (i.e. son-in-law and daughter of Nazarbayev); together, they control 88.45% of shares in the credit organization. Immediately after the closure of this deal, Rakishev has withdrawn from the Board of Directors of Kazkommertsbank.
But on March 19, 2019, Nazarbayev has resigned and named Kassym-Jomart Tokayev his successor. On June 9, Tokayev won the special elections by gaining 70.76% of votes. Of course, Nursultan Nazarbayev still retains significant power in the republic – he is the leader of the ruling party, Chairman of the Security Council, etc.
However, the power balance in the national political elite started changing – and this directly affected Kenes Rakishev. Many online portals are publishing information about suspicious schemes pulled off by the ‘pocket investor’; some of them claim that his accounts are blocked, while Rakishev is on the run. The oligarch decided to refute the rumors and restore justice – editorial boards of Kazakh media outlets received an official letter signed by Kenes Rakishev, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fincraft Resources.
"Incorrect information started circulating on the Internet that, overnight into July 6, I, Kenes Rakishev has fled Kazakhstan. This information is outright false," – Kenes Rakishev states. He intends to sue websites that had allegedly damaged his business reputation and, for some reason, mentions such resources as Glavk.info and FBI.media. These portals contain plenty of materials able not only to destroy the business reputation of Rakishev – but ruin his family as well (including fruity stories about his personal life). In other words, the young oligarch told the public where to look for information compromising him.
Last year, Kenes Rakishev had already tried to cleanse the Internet from unpleasant comments about him. In October 2018, the Tushinsky District Court of Moscow has partially satisfied the lawsuit filed by Kenes against 40 online platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Compromat.ru, and LiveInternet, and ruled that the information posted there discredits his honor, dignity and business reputation. Rakishev had demanded to remove such materials, ban those in the Russian Federation, and recognize the operations of the above websites illegal. However, the court agreed only to block some individual pages.
The young oligarch believes that Mukhtar Ablyazov is trying to discredit him in the eyes of his business partners.
However, business activities of Rakishev after the presidential elections in Kazakhstan indicate that his current prospects are not rosy at all.
For instance, on July 16, 2019, it became known that Kenes Rakishev, the largest shareholder of Petropavlovsk Gold Mining Company, is selling his portfolio (22.42% of shares) to Russian businessman Roman Trotsenko. The agreement of purchase and sale of the shares has been signed between Fincraft Resources controlled by Rakishev and Altair Research and Manufacturing Association. In other words, the Kazakh oligarch is no longer a shareholder of Petropavlovsk. The deal is expected to close within one–two months.
Petropavlovsk PLC is one of the five largest gold mining companies in Russia. Its main assets are located in the Amur region; four mining–leach–metallurgical plants operate there: Pokrovsky rudnik, Pioner, Malomyr, and Albyn. In 2018, the company reduced its gold production by 4% – to 422.3 thousand ounces (13.1 tons).
In February 2019, Taraz Metallurgical Plant producing ferro-alloys and anode paste, that used to be a part of Fincraft Resources (former SAT & Company), was sold. Fincraft Resources also sold Temirtau Electrometallurgical Plant for $13.5 million and Arman 100 Limited Liability Partnership for $1.6 million. In addition, the holding closed its subsidiary companies incorporated outside Kazakhstan – SatFerro Limited (the UK) SatFerro, and SAT&Co Netherlands (the Netherlands) – and recorded a net loss of $34 million.
Rakishev in NASDAQ
Overall, it is clear that Kenes Rakishev is getting rid of resource assets. The state of his Net Element, Inc., whose shares are listed at NASDAQ, is also far from perfection. According to the interactive stock chart, back in 2012, Net Element, Inc. shares were worth some $1 thousand each, while their current value is some $3.
The investments of Rakishev are now clearly directed towards the West – not to his native Kazakhstan. According to the oligarch, his venture capital business is focused on two funds – Singulariteam 1 and Singulariteam 2; these organizations invest into 40−50 companies based mostly in Israel.
“A small portion of it is located in the USA. The first fund ($22 million) involves my partner Dzhakhangir Makhmudov (son of Iskander Makhmudov). The second fund ($130 million) involves, in addition to myself and Dzhakhangir, Chinese investors whose interests are represented by Goldman Sachs China,” – Rakishev explains.
So far, the media hadn’t reported any open conflicts between the current political elite of Kazakhstan and Kenes Rakishev. Apparently, the main prerequisite for his further success is loyalty to the new power brokers. Nursultan Nazarbayev still wields significant power in the republic – but he cannot rule it forever.