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Russian jeweller Sokolov pivoting to China with Moscow IPO in pipeline

FILE PHOTO: Sokolov, managing partner and co-owner of Sokolov Jewelry, poses in Moscow

By Olga Popova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Geopolitics may have thwarted Russian jeweller Sokolov's dream of a New York listing, but plans to go public in Moscow remain firmly on the table, its co-owner told Reuters, adding international expansion plans had pivoted to China from Europe.

Amid a wave of Russian initial public offerings (IPO) last year, Sokolov said it wanted to list in New York and Moscow in 2023. But Russia sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February led many companies to reassess IPO plans.

Now targeting a Moscow Exchange listing, most probably in the second half of 2023, Sokolov is entering bond markets, has secured a credit rating in Russia and is preparing to go public, Artem Sokolov, managing partner and co-owner of the 30-year-old jewellery network, told Reuters.

"We have not given up on this idea. The strategic objective is to bring the company into the public arena," Sokolov said. "We will wait and see how the market behaves."

At least 10 companies had been looking to go public in 2022 before Russia's IPO market stalled, but signs of life may be re-emerging. E-scooter firm Whoosh said on Monday it was considering an IPO.

CHINA EXPANSION

Sokolov had been planning to launch a retail network in Germany this year, but with the West shunning Russian businesses over Moscow's actions in Ukraine, the company is now targeting the Chinese market, hoping to open 30-50 stores there next year, should an initial three-store pilot in Shanghai be successful.

"We want to become a prominent player in the local market within three to five years," Sokolov said. "We have learned how to open 300 stores a year, we have that ability."

At home, the goal is to increase the number of retail touch points by 1,000 in the next two years, from 400 currently, benefiting from primarily Russian raw materials and a practice of melting any unsold inventory back into its original gold or silver, keeping costs down.

Another likely boost is that Pandora and Swarovski, named last year by Sokolov as his company's closest international competitors, have both suspended ties with Russia.

(Reporting by Olga Popova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Potter)