Andrey Guryev Jr. hulks over a table at the Plaza Garden Cafe in Moscow’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, phone in hand, surrounded by three Russians, all from PhosAgro. Nearby, the sound of a rooster crows from a massive, wooden clock that marks the time by a fountain. How much time have we got, I ask him. Enough time, he says.
PhosAgro is his baby. It produces fertilizer. It’s not the sexiest company in town. It’s not the usual Russian oil and gas headline. But it is one of the four largest fertilizer producers in the world. It’s enough to make his father, same name minus the junior, one of the richest business owners around. FORBES ranks him as Russia’s 24th richest man. His company’s stock is up 102.4% in ruble terms since July 2014. That’s not just because of the ruble, which lost 69% of its value over the same period. The weak currency and a general global disdain for all-things-Russian has the Market Vectors Russia small cap exchange traded fund (RSXJ) up 18.5% since then. Why hearken back July? Any Russia watcher will tell you that is when Russia became the world’s bogey man. Washington and Brussels hit it with sanctions on its banks and energy companies. Russia retaliated with sanctions on a number of European food items, from vegetables to dairy products. Farmers in Russia produced more of their own to make up for it. They needed more fertilizer. Boom goes PhosAgro.