RUSSIA AND CHINA FUNDS LINK UP IN TIMBER VENTURE

China and Russia's sovereign wealth funds are making their first joint investment - in a Siberian timber company - as part of a push to increase commercial ties between the Russian far east and fast-growing countries in Asia.
 
China Investment Corporation and its Russian counterpart, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, established a joint private-equity fund in June. The fund will make its first investment, of around $200m, for a minority stake in Russia Forest Products, the country's second-biggest forestry company, which has operations in Siberia.
 
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has championed a focus on resource-hungry Asia in a tacit acknowledgment that Moscow has been slow to exploit economic opportunities on its Asian doorstep.
 
Mr Putin is this week hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok in an effort to "market the far-east as attractive for investment", said Kirill Dmitriev, RDIF chief executive .
 
Mr Putin yesterday attended the opening of a new Mazda Motor car assembly plant in Vladivostok. Mazda has teamed up with Sollers, the Russian carmaker, to invest $350m in the plant.
 
Chinese investments in Siberia have been hampered by Beijing's concerns about the reliability of Russia's investment environment - as well as by Russian suspicions about Chinese motives in the sparsely populated far east.
 
Chinese attempts to buy natural resources in places as far afield as Iceland, Australia and Mongolia have sometimes been rebuffed.
 
This week, Chalco, China's biggest aluminium producer, abandoned its investment of up to C$925m (US$938m) in the SouthGobi coal mine because of Mongolian suspicions about Beijing's intentions.
 
Mr Dmitriev said the joint nature of the Russia-China fund's investments gave assurances to both sides: "There's a general understanding that it's important for Russia to develop good relations with countries of the east and to learn from them."
 
Russia has invested $21bn in preparing for the Apec leaders' summit on Russky island near Vladivostok, including construction of the world's longest cable span bridge.
 
Some residents of the city are sceptical about the lasting effects of such showcase investments. Asked what had changed as a result of the summit, one volunteer said: "Now there's a big bridge."
 
Additional reporting by Isabel Gorst