(By Rich Bieglmeier) On July 23rd, the world's 9th (or 11th depending on source) largest economy will be admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO). After 18 years, the longest acceptance in the organization's history, Russia will finally be handed its admission ticket.
Russia is the last of the world's major economies to join the group and could open the door for U.S. exporters. As it stands now, trade between the two countries is limited. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 2010 (latest available data), the United States exported $6 billion and imported $25.7 billion in goods and services with Russia. With the former cold war adversary's $1.8 trillion economy, there is nothing but upside for both numbers.
You can bet your bottom dollar the smart or connected/insider money is already positioned to get fat from day one of the agreement. But iStock wants you, the average investor to benefit too. Information is knowledge and knowledge is money, we spent hours and hours seeking insights as to which industries stand to benefit the most, so we can share them with you.
Agriculture could be the biggest winner. The executive branch reports "Russian retail food and beverage sales are forecast to increase in real terms from just over $200 billion in 2010 to more than $240 billion by 2014—a 20 percent increase."
The U.S. has had limited participation in Russia's ag market. The country has some tricky veterinary requirements that inhibited penetration and slapped big tariffs on equipment. However, immediately upon Russia's entrance into the WTO, the barriers are supposed to be removed and the market to one of the world's largest importers of food should swing wide open.
Bottled water, 100% fruit juices, sports and energy drinks could end up being the biggest winner of all. The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service reports "every third sample of tap water in Russia does not meet sanitary-chemical indicators and every 10th does not meet bacteriological indicators. In such a situation, consumption of bottled water is not considered a luxury by many Russians, but a necessity"
In iStock's opinion, Pepsico, Inc. (PEP), which already enjoys strong brand loyalty in Russia, has the best product line-up to meet the country's mixed market demands.
Russia is a top 10 juice market with a stable $400 million in imports for fruit and vegetable juices. The fastest growing segment in 2011 was 100% juice products up 23% for the year. Pepsi's Tropicana is the #1 recognized brand in this market.
Additionally, the thirst for sports and energy drinks is on the rise as Russians are beginning to focus more on active and healthier lifestyles. Again, the most recognized name in the sports' drink arena is Pepsi's Gatorade.
Finally, while its Aquafina bottled water doesn't have the same recognition as Coke's Dasani, it is still one of the most identifiable bottled water brands in the world.
Agricultural equipment is potentially another profitable way to play Russia's entry to the WTO.
A report from the department of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA) believes Russia's farm sector "is positioned as a major long-term customer for U.S agricultural equipment because of its vast endowment of arable land, rising global food demand, and plans to expand its agro-industrial sector."
Upon Russia's entry to the WTO, the average tariff on U.S. combine harvesters and threshers exports will be fixed at 5 percent, down from 15%, which should make U.S. brands attractive alternatives to home field manufacturers.
Some near-term event driven catalysts could ramp up demand, too. "Russia will be undertaking large scale construction projects in preparation for the 2012 APEC Summit and the 2014 Winter Olympics, creating demand for construction equipment and export opportunities for U.S. producers and exporters" according to the ITA.
The obvious investable names that come to mind are Deere & Company (DE), Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), and AGCO Corporation (AGCO). Each has presence in the country and could hit the ground running. Don't be too surprised if these names move as the July 23rd deadline approaches.