Putin indicates Russia could loosen restrictions on dividend payments to foreigners
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he would consider a "more flexible" approach to restrictions on shareholders and parent companies in "unfriendly" countries receiving dividends from Russian firms.
Putin said Russia could consider allowing some payments if the companies reinvested the proceeds back into Russia.
The restrictions were part of sweeping capital controls Russia introduced last year in response to Western sanctions on Moscow over its military campaign in Ukraine.
"I understand that this, to a certain extent, limits the possibilities for our faithful friends and partners, who have worked, are working and want to continue working," Putin said on Thursday.
Russia considers any country that has hit Moscow with sanctions - including the U.S., Canada, Japan and the 27 members of the European Union - to be "unfriendly" and has imposed a number of counter-sanctions aimed specifically at them.
"I will ask the government to ... think about a more flexible situation, in which it would be possible to pay dividends and withdraw some funds on condition that, among other things, these funds are directed, perhaps primarily, towards developing business in Russia," he added.
First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov noted that current legislation does not prohibit the payment of dividends, but keeps them in special "type-C" accounts in roubles.
But he acknowledged that the regulations could be made clearer.
"We have investors and investment that came to Russia after the start of the special operation and after the introduction of sanctions," Belousov said. "And so for this kind of investment, we propose that the restrictions we have today should be significantly eased."
Putin was addressing business leaders in person for the first time since the day he sent his troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year. He called on Russia's business elite to invest at home and help Russia overcome the West's "sanctions war".
Hundreds of Western firms left Russia in a mass corporate exodus last year, often booking hefty write-downs on the value of their investments.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Jake Cordell and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Kevin Liffey)