Georgia aims for $2 bln in foreign investments with new fund

TBILISI Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:16pm GMT

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TBILISI Feb 11 (Reuters) - Georgia aims to double foreign direct investments to $2 billion this year, helped by a new sovereign wealth fund it is hiring international banks to promote, the fund's chief executive said on Monday.

The vehicle will succeed the state-owned Partnership Fund, created in 2011 to attract investments from abroad, and focus on co-financing projects in the energy agriculture, real estate and industrial sectors.

Involving international banks as advisers will help it meet 'best practice' investor guidelines, Irakly Kovzanadze - who also runs the Partnership Fund - told Reuters on Monday in an interview.

"We are in talks with JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and others, who have experience of international asset management. They will participate in the management of a future sovereign fund and ...will advise us," Irakly Kovzanadze said in an interview.

Revenues for the fund, which has not yet been renamed, will come mainly from dividends from the state-owned rail, oil and gas businesses and profits on its own investments.

It will be structured along the lines of Russia's Direct Investment Fund, which was set up in 2011 to co-invest in projects backed by foreign private equity and sovereign wealth funds.

Kovzanadze became head of the Partnership Fund after a new government was formed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who defeated the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili in parliamentary elections last October.

Saakashvili, leader of Georgia's democratic 'rose' revolution of 2003, has attempted to tackle corruption and attract foreign investment as part of a liberal reform programme that helped boost growth in the Caucasus state.

Some businesses, however, have criticised him for creating monopolies, establishing state control over firms and for failing to provide clarity in tax law.

The Ivanishvili government has pledged to eliminate those problems and Kovzanadze believes that it will be more successful in attracting foreign investors.

"I expect about $2 billion in FDI this year, up from about $1 billion estimated in 2012," Kovzanadze said.

"Investors need stability, guarantees of property rights, an impartial judicial system and financial stability."

He expects investors from neighbouring Azerbaijan and Turkey as well as Kazakhstan and Russia to be among the first to express interest.

Georgian exports should soon begin flowing back to Russia, after Moscow agreed in principle this month to lift an embargo in a step towards rebuilding relations between the two countries, which fought a five-day war in August 2008.

"I expect interest from Russian investors. There is interest already," Kovzanadze said. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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