Russians seek new investment opportunities

The Russians are coming – it is a sure sign that property prices will go through the roof and that expensive designer shops, malls and restaurants will follow.

First observed in the chic French ski resort of Courcheval several years ago, the phenomenon is spreading. Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria and even Montenegro are currently getting a taste of the power of the Russian bear and his money.

It started with a group of mega rich Russian entrepreneurs arriving annually in Courcheval in January to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas and New Year. Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia's richest men, Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea soccer club in England, even Vladimir Putin were spotted on the slopes. Boris Berezovsky, the exiled oil and media tycoon, and Tatiana Yeltsina, daughter of Boris Yeltsin, were regulars.

But soon the Russian factor turned sour. There were reports that they drank Coca-Cola with their Petrus, one of the world's most expensive wines, they would party until the early hours of the morning and finally a Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, co-owner of the world's biggest nickel producer with an estimated fortune of $7.6 billion, was detained by French police investigating a suspected prostitution ring. He was released without charge but word on the street was that the Russians will be going elsewhere next year for their annual festivities. But where?

Forte Dei Marmi, a small Italian town has turned into the second Courchevel. Russian money has forced up prices in the town, situated 20 minutes drive from Pisa. Fashion boutiques and world-famous brands such as Prada, Gucci, Burberry, are in abundance.

It's a well known within the real estate industry that some of the more impressive properties in Southern Cyprus have been commissioned by Russian buyers. Now the Russian focus has spread across the Green Line, and sagacious buyers aware that their money will go far further are looking around at what's available in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

More Russians are now buying up properties in Bulgaria, mainly rich Russians interested in luxury apartments in the capital, Sofia, and along the Black Sea Coast.

Some Russians are even looking to Montenegro. They are showing interest in the latest developments including a world-class destination resort on the Bigovo cove in Donji Grbaljon on Traste Bay near Budva and Tivat.