Oligarchs and organizations, people and money, Gazprom and Google. In short, these are the economic relations between the small open Swiss economy and the two superpowers Russia and the United States, whose presidents will meet in Geneva on June 16.
The oligarchs, the people and Gazprom: it is the oligarchs, the very wealthy businessmen, who make up the picture of the economic relationship between Switzerland and Russia. The list of illustrious personalities is long, led by Victor Vekselberg (64), who, through his Renova Group, owns famous shares in Swiss industrial icons such as Sulzer and OC O’Corlicon.
affected by sanctions
Or Gennady Timchenko (68), who takes 12th place in the list of the richest Swiss with a fortune of 12.5 billion Swiss francs and lives in a GE colony. He got his money in oil and gas, and put Vladimir Putin (68) on the rug while playing judo or playing ice hockey with the Russian president. He shares the fate of Vekselberg with his presence on the US sanctions list.
Americans in Switzerland lack such illustrious personalities, most notably Vas Narasemhan (44), CEO of Novartis, or Eric Ferwald (61) of Syngenta.
Russian Margarita Louis-Dreyfus (59), who has a relationship with former Swiss banker Philipp Hildebrand (57) and a member of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce board of directors, links the two worlds. An important institution, as the US economy almost became Switzerland’s most important export partner in 2020 with a volume of nearly CHF40 billion. For comparison: Russia ranks only 17th in this ranking with less than 3 billion Swiss francs.
Huge inflows of money
Organizations, Monets and Google: Swiss and American companies like to invest their money in the other country. The sums involved are enormous: Swiss companies have invested CHF286 billion in the US, making it sixth, and, conversely, CHF211 billion of US direct investment in Swiss companies – making the USA number one in Switzerland.
The list of the largest US companies in Switzerland reads like who is from the global economy. The top five are McDonald’s (fast food), Johnson & Johnson (pharmaceutical), IBM (information technology), Philip Morris (tobacco), and General Electric (industrial). Google is closely followed, making its headquarters in Zurich the most important outside the United States.
Even if direct investments by Russian companies in Switzerland seem relatively low at just under 30 billion, it means that raw material-free Switzerland, with Zug and Geneva, has become the most important trading hubs for oil, gas and other raw materials. Energy giants such as Gazprom and Rosneft have their own trading subsidiaries in Switzerland. It is very likely that Nord Stream 2 will be the subject of the summit. The controversial gas pipeline is being built by a subsidiary of Gazprom based in Zug.
Russian empires are attracted to France
Among other things, to raise funds for raw material deals or loans to Russian companies, Sberbank and Gazprombank – the first and third numbers in the Russian financial sector – are most prominently represented in Switzerland.
Study shows: Russians are in the Swiss passport, they are the world champions of naturalization in this country. One of the reasons: the Swiss passport opens many doors for Russians that the Russian passport closed in their face. There is only one thing more common: a Swiss bank account. That’s what 98 percent of wealthy Russians want.
For several years now, St. Moritz GR has established itself as a winter hotspot for the rich and beautiful Russians. Gstaad BE is still on the agenda for many, but it seems that the (converted) ruble is now circulating in the luxury French ski resort of Courchevel.
Better whiskey than vodka
By the way, the Swiss World Export Promotion Foundation encouraged Swiss wine growers to export wine to Russia. Because despite the stiff competition, there seems to be “room for Swiss wine”. So it might be worth giving the Russian delegation a can or two of Swiss wine. Even if the Russians are (yet) not big consumers of wine, they drink five times more alcohol than the Swiss.
On the other hand, in the case of alcohol imports, whiskey is clearly overtaken by vodka. Not all whiskeys come from the USA, and not all vodkas come from Russia. But together, the two spirits alone make up a third of all spirits imports into Switzerland.