U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has just announced that the Ukrainian economy will receive a guaranteed $1 billion in the form of a loan from a U.S. committed to "Ukrainian stability." This is in addition to the $14 billion-$18 billion aid package that the IMF is expected to grant Ukraine. Although there may be a level of altruism here, it is far more likely that the U.S. is simply protecting firms invested in-country.
While it rarely gains a lot of press, U.S. firms are fairly entrenched in the country, especially in agricultural and construction equipment. This is fairly surprising, even if the aggregate trade balance between the two countries stays under $4 billion dollars per year. Considering the way trade has expanded between the countries in the last several years, this aid package may mean a new set of market opportunities for American firms.
If the aid is offered without any strings attached (outside of standard loan repayments), there are three companies that will be quite pleased by this aid package. Their presence in Ukraine creates both a unique opportunity and potential risks.
Monsanto (NYSE: MON )
Monsanto may have been voted the second-worst company in America by The Consumerist, but the company may have a more positive perception in Ukraine. With the country outlawing the usage of any genetically modified seeds, Monsanto has been exploring opportunities to break into the market with a $140 million conventional seed production plant. If plans go forward, Mosanto may see a greatly expanded market presence in Ukraine that could boost recently lacking company finances. While Monsanto's presence in Ukraine is small relative to its operations elsewhere, a plant not dependent on genetically modified output could enable the company to test new products in a market with great potential for growth.
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT )
Caterpillar's position is a little more complex. Manufacturing construction and mining equipment, Caterpillar has interests in both Russia and Ukraine, so on the face of things, the company has more to lose. However, Ukraine's recent push to regulate the mining industry due to rampant corruption means that the American firm (currently the dominant leader in Ukraine's mining market) stands to gain from the smallest attempt at controlling illegal mining seen in current competitors.
If politics does not get in the way, Caterpillar is poised to expand further. Already sitting on a 14% year-to-date gain, the company is relatively safe without Ukraine; however, with Ukraine, the company will likely enjoy the region's rising prices..
Dupont (NYSE: DD )
Like Monsanto, Dupont is heavily interested in producing agricultural goods. Unlike Monsanto, however, Dupont has already established a substantial foothold in Ukraine in the form of several seed producing plants. Unfortunately, that has been looking somewhat shaky lately as political violence has affected sales in the country. With the recent unrest still ongoing, shipments of seed and products have been consistently disrupted. This in turn has caused Ukrainian agricultural firms to look elsewhere for their needs as Dupont materials continue to be delayed.
Things have stabilized somewhat, although the company's first-quarter earnings took a hit. The company reported revenue of $10.1 billion, down 3% from last year (though this owed mostly to disappointing performance in the U.S.).
U.S. aid will ease the company's Ukrainian operations, as the fresh infusion of money will allow Ukrainian companies to make more aggressive purchases from Dupont as they expand in the weak market.
Other areas for growth?
While the three companies noted above are likely the most pleased to see some stability return to the Ukrainian market, there is a chance that American investment could increase beyond the promised $1 billion. Given recent trends and the relative explosion of American chemical exports to Ukraine, there is the possibility of future investment.
Nonetheless, the success of the aforementioned companies is far from certain. The potential for market-destabilizing violence still looms, though one hopes for a most diplomatic solution so markets can return to some semblance of normalcy.
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