VimpelCom (NASDAQ:VIP) is finally getting a little love again on Wall Street, largely because its merger with Egypt-based mobile carrier Orascom was so universally unpopular. Last August, shares of VimpelCom — one of Russia’s top cell service providers — were trading cozily at $16.81. But once the company surprised traders and strategic investors alike by deciding to grab Orascom’s business in Italy and other markets on August 12, VIP has been pretty dead money.
That chart looks especially grim when you consider that both the Moscow market and broad Russia funds like RSX have fared much better.
Now, however, the analysts are creeping back in. Credit Suisse just reinitiated VIP coverage at “outperform” and a target of $17, arguing that the company is its top pick in the Russian telecom industry. And since most U.S. traders have to use the telecoms as a proxy for the otherwise tough-to-access Russian consumer sector, that’s a pretty good indication that VIP is still one of the top ways to get exposure to a more prosperous Russian middle class.
On the other hand, Credit Suisse has nothing good to say for legacy wireline carrier Rostelecom (OTCQX:ROSYY). It opened coverage of that stock at “underperform” and slapped a target of just 120 rubles — $5.78 — on its Moscow shares. That translates to a price of about $34.68 in New York, where ROSYY is currently trading at well above $43, and that in turn indicates potential downside of around 20%.
Naturally, the third Russian telecom play, Mobile Telesystems (NYSE:MBT), is also out there and waiting for Wall Street to pay closer attention.