Investment Opportunities in the Eurasian Economic Union: Privatization of State-Owned Assets in the Republic of Kazakhstan

On May 26, 2018 the panel session “Investment Opportunities in the Unified Energy System: Privatization of State Assets in the Republic of Kazakhstan” was held at the Saint Petersburg Internationa Economic Forum (SPIEF). The initiator of the event was JSC “National Welfare Fund” Samruk-Kazyna “. The session was attended by Yuri Kofner, head of the CCEIS Eurasian sector of the Higher School of Economics, analyst at the OECD-HSE Center, as well as by analysts of the media portal “Eurasian Studies”.

Kazakhstan is ranked 35th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, and ranked first for protecting minority investors. Why is now the best time to invest in Kazakhstan? What is the country doing to attract investment? What is the role of the Kazakh National Samruk-Kazyna Fund – one of the 30 leading sovereign wealth funds in the world, with assets of around USD 70 billion? The comprehensive privatization plan for 2016–2020, approved by the Government of Kazakhstan, includes 876 companies, of which 215 are assets of the Samruk-Kazyna Fund. How robust is the Fund’s portfolio of companies available for sale? How can foreign investors participate in the privatization of major national assets operating in the energy, petrochemicals, mining, transportation, and logistics sectors?

Moderator: Nurlan Rakhmetov, Managing Director for Transformation, Privatization and Restructuring, Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna. Panellists:  Imangaly Tasmagambetov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Russian Federation; Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District of the Russian Federation;  Kanat Alpysbaev, Chairman of the Management Board – President, JSC NC Kazakhstan Temir Zholy; Baljeet Kaur Grewal, Managing Director for Strategic Development, Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna; Akhmetzhan Yessimov, Chairman of the Management Board, Sovereign Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna; Kanat Kudaybergen, Chairman of the Management Board, Tau-Ken Samruk National Mining Company;  Askar Mamin, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan;  Zhenis Osserbai, Chairman of the Managment Board, United Chemical Company LLP
Alexander Blair Treherne Pollock, Chairman of the Management Board, Qazaq Air.

From left to right: Yuri Kofner, head of the Eurasian sector of the Higher School of Economics; Mahabbat Bazhenova, spokesperson, Eurasian Society for Economic Cooperation (Vienna); Rustam Minnikhanov, President of the Republic of Tatarstan.

From left to right: Yuri Kofner, head of the Eurasian sector of the Higher School of Economics; Mahabbat Bazhenova, spokesperson, Eurasian Society for Economic Cooperation (Vienna); Timur Zhaksylykov, member of the Board (Minister) for Economic and Financial Policy of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC).

Key observations

Russia – Kazakhstan partnership within the framework of the EAEU can be called fruitful and strategic

“Today, more than 8500 Russian-invested companies are operating in Kazakhstan. Russia is a leader in direct foreign investment stock,” said Imangali Tasmagambetov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Russia.

“In practical terms, the EAEU creates opportunities for effective development of our economies and makes it possible to reach a new qualitative level of economic development”, Rustam Minnihanov, President of the Republic of Tatarstan.

“Kazakhstan is a reliable strategic partner for Russia. Commodity circulation between our countries has increased by 30% and reached 17.5 billion US Dollars”, Yuri Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District.

The economy of Kazakhstan is open to the world and investments

“Kazakhstan focuses particularly on creating a favourable business environment for investors. In the Doing Business 2018 rating, Kazakhstan is the leader in minority investors rights protection”, said Imangali Tasmagambetov, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Russia.

“Kazakhstan is the most attractive economy in Central Asia, drawing up to 80% of direct investments in the region. This could not be achieved without improving the investment climate and taking measures allowing Kazakhstan to work within OECD standards”, Askar Mamin, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“The Republic of Kazakhstan has resolutely entered a period of structural reforms including privatisation of state owned assets. A new stock exchange has been set up from scratch for these purposes, using best practices. In July, the ‘Astana’ International Financial Centre with independent court and arbitration is to be opened”, Kairat Kelimbetov, Manager of the ‘Astana’ International Financial Centre.

Transit capacity of Kazakhstan is of special interest 

“There is interest to developing common transit potential – a route from China through Kazakhstan and into Europe passing through the Republic of Tatarstan as well”, Rustam Minnihanov, President of the Republic of Tatarstan.

“What is attractive about the transport and logistics sectors of Kazakhstan? First of all, it is the EAEU factor setting the main trend. A united transport area with common laws and transport standards has already been created. Within the last 8-10 years, more than 30 billion US Dollars have been invested in the Kazakhstan Transport and Logistics Complex. The Republic of Kazakhstan has an effective rail network covering all export, import and transit needs”, Kanat Alpysbaev, Chairman of the Board, President of JSC Kazakhstan Railways.

The “One zone – one road” initiative also gives a positive impetus to achieving this purpose. Transport and logistics chains, which allow us to become an Eastern gateway between Western China and Siberia, are being created. We do not compete, we integrate”, Kanat Alpysbaev, Chairman of the Board, President of JSC Kazakhstan Railways.

Problems

The major approach to privatisation and reformation of state owned assets management 

Samruk Kazina total assets amount to 74 billion US Dollars and consisting of all economic sectors. It is necessary to make management of this portfolio more efficient and bring the fund to a level comparable with the main international sovereign wealth funds. The President has recently approved this new strategy. The objectives will be achieved through key strategic initiatives, one of them being a comprehensive programme of privatisation. This year, more than 50 assets from various sectors and of different sizes, including Kazatomprom, Air Astana and Kazakhtelecom, are to be privatised”, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, Chairman of the Board of National Welfare Fund Samruk Kazina.

“By the end of the year, within the framework of the programme, we are planning to privatise three airports, the Aktau sea port and a number of other assets”, Nurlan Rakhmetov, Managing director for transformation, privatisation and restructuring of National Welfare Fund Samruk Kazina.

Adapting the domestic economy to external shocks

“Despite effect of the sanctions, the Tenge has stabilised and dollar deposits have decreased. This has demonstrated the strength of our domestic economy, which supports the local currency. Our economy is mature and dynamic. This privatisation provides more opportunities to investing in national companies, which, in future, will allow them to be developed as our economy grows”, Baljeet Kaur Grewal, Managing Director for Strategic Development of National Welfare Fund Samruk Kazina.

Digitalisation and sustainable economy growth – important issues on the agenda

“The period of digitalisation of our national companies is very important for us”, Baljeet Kaur Grewal, Managing Director for Strategic Development of National Welfare Fund Samruk Kazina.

Solutions

Chemistry, petrochemistry, agricultural chemistry and processing 

“Kazakhstan is planning to become one of the ten best exporters of crude oil by 2030 Baljeet Kaur Grewal, Managing Director for Strategic Development of National Welfare Fund Samruk Kazina.

“Talking about the Atirau platform, the state is implementing the first step of infrastructure construction for 1 billion US Dollars. One of the most promising projects we would like to introduce is production of methanol and its derivatives. We have the raw materials, production site, state preferences and a chemical company as a potential partner. Agricultural chemistry is developed in the Taraz chemical zone. 40% of the products are created in the District of Jambyl, which is rich in phosphorites”, Jenis Oserbay, Chairman of the Board of the United Chemical Company.

Exploitation of natural resources

“There are a number of large state-owned mineral deposits. The state is also conducting a range of geological survey works. A new Code for subsoil and land management based on the Australian example has been adopted. It includes assistance to investors who want to use natural resources”, Kanat Kudaibergen, Chairman of the Board of National Mining Company Tau-Ken Samruk.

“Kazakhstan will take second place in tungsten resources after China. We will be able to take 30% of the world market. According to our agreement with the government, we have the preemptive right to field operations”, Kanat Kudaibergen, Chairman of the Board of National Mining Company Tau-Ken Samruk.

Development of energy, including alternative sources 

“The company is actively developing the green energy sector. We have big plans for widening our activities in this sphere. Our strategic goals are corporate social responsibility and support for sustainable development. Privatisation will allow us to focus on our main activities and strengthen the company’s financial stability”, Erken Akenev, head of Department of asset divestiture and reorganisation, Samruk Energo.

Expanding air transport 

“To cover the whole country, a tight network of air carriers is needed. In Kazakhstan, we carry our regional passengers according to the strictest international safety standards. We hold talks with our strategic partners in order collectively to find new models for cooperation. We have the youngest and most efficient fleet in the region. We fly to regional airports and work in alliance with international air carriers. We are also closely monitoring the ‘One zone – one road’ initiative and try to comply with it fully”, Alexander Blare Trierne Pollack, Chairman of the Board of Qazaq Air.

 “We have already carried almost half a million passengers. We also work in code-sharing with Aeroflot and Air Astana. The company has unique opportunities for development at the regional level. Income from such flights has risen by 53% and the number of flights by 30%. We are operating on 14 routes within Kazakhstan. Next year, we are planning to have 22 routes, including seven international ones”, Alexander Blare Trierne Pollack, Chairman of the Board of Qazaq Air.

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