|The euro is trading at an inexplicably high rate to the dollar, preventing eurozone nations from finding growth, says Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
With European policymakers and politicians increasingly split over whether to relax austerity measures, Mr Deripaska, who controls Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminium producer, said that the turmoil and high value of the euro meant his business would steer clear of investing in the eurozone.
“We need to be practical,” he says in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. “With the high euro and the state of the markets in Europe, it wouldn’t be reasonable to go anywhere near buying something significant in Europe at this moment.”
Mr Deripaska, who is estimated to be worth $8.5bn (£5.58bn) in the latest Forbes rich list, making him Russia’s 16th richest man, says he fails to comprehend what makes the euro 45pc more valuable against the dollar than it was at launch in 2002.
The euro traded at 90 US cents at launch but rocketed to a peak of $1.59 in July 2008. It has since fallen to $1.31, but Mr Deripaska believes that is still too high.
“I can’t understand why the euro is so high,” he says. Has Europe become more productive or created more innovation? I just can’t see it.
“It doesn’t present much opportunity for south Europe and industrial parts of Europe in France and Italy to benefit.
“For me, nothing has changed. People have become calmer because they don’t believe in the black scenario that the European Union and the banking system will collapse. But there is still no clear action plan.
“I’m not sure it’s right, because Russia could benefit more from Europe and Europe could benefit more from deeper co-operation with Russia and former Soviet republics. There’s a clear opportunity there.”
Sixteen months ago, Mr Deripaska said some European nations were operating “like socialism”, spending above their means, given the tough economic climate. He still feels Europe has major problems.
“I think Europe is missing an opportunity now,” he says. “The more that European countries stay in the eurozone, the more difficult it will become for them.
“How Europe maintains its high standards of living conditions and expectations of social welfare, I really [don’t know].”
Mr Deripaska also controls car-maker GAZ, which expanded into Britain in 2006, buying Birmingham van-maker LDV Holdings. However, it sold it three years later to Malaysian automobile manufacturer Weststar and Mr Deripaska ruled out further moves into western Europe.
Meanwhile, the increasingly fractious debate over how to tackle the eurozone’s problems continued as IMF managing director Christine Lagarde used the close of the organisation’s spring meeting in Washington to urge Europe, the United States and Japan to act more resolutely to build up confidence.
The euro area had the clearest need to balance supporting growth with needed reform, she said, and she also hinted last week that the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, may have to slow the pace of cuts.
He has so far been defiant and said that he would take IMF advice only if he thought it was correct.