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Russia in its sights

From investing in Skype to becoming boss of Formula One motor racing team Lotus to investing in energy infrastructure, no-one can accuse Gerard Lopez of leading a quiet life.

Lopez, chairman of the board of infrastructure investment firm Rise Capital – a firm in which Lopez’ Nekton Global energy merchant business took a 50 percent stake in June – is now setting his sights on Russia.

Shortly after the Nekton Global investment, Rise Capital revealed a strategic partnership with the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district, an energy-rich region. The agreement will see Rise Capital securing capital from Middle Eastern and Asian investors for large-scale infrastructure projects of strategic importance.

One of the projects under consideration is constructing part of the Northern Latitudinal Railway, a project located in the Urals Federal District, which would connect the region’s main hydrocarbon deposits and allow the “safe and efficient” transportation of resources and goods.

The Yamal Peninsula is an immensely important energy location. With 238 oil and gas fields, it is home to 70 percent of all Russian crude reserves and 20 percent of all global production. Almost 60 oil and gas companies are currently active in the region including local giants such as Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil.

Explaining his interest in Russia, Lopez told Infrastructure Investor: “We’ve known Russia for a long time because our first foray into the country was more than 10 years ago on the technology investment side. It’s a natural progression for us to push into the Russian market.”

He added that “the strategy, which is to focus on infrastructure rather than concessions, is a good way to get exposure without going into the production and upstream areas”.

The firm claims to have a future pipeline of 45 potential projects, with investment ticket sizes in these projects ranging from $500 million to $2 billion (equity and debt combined). It says it will seek to increase its investment capacity over the next five years to approximately $12 billion.

Based in Luxembourg, Lopez is a founding partner of venture capital firm Mangrove Capital, which most notably funded video chat firm Skype as well as other high-tech success stories such as cloud-based web developer Wix and instant messaging firm Nimbuzz.