February 12, 2020 / 11:35 AM / 5 days ago

EBRD makes first Uzbek equity investment in a decade

* Uzbek businessman Zafar Khashimov controls the stores

* Size of stake not disclosed

* Says investment will boost staff, improve standards

TASHKENT, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has bought a minority stake in the Singapore firm that owns Uzbek food retailer Korzinka, its first equity investment in the Central Asian nation in a decade, the bank said on Wednesday.

The EBRD is investing up to $40 million in the firm that controls a network of 50 stores across the former Soviet republic of 34 million people, it said in a statement.

The development bank embarked on a new phase of engagement with Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, after a major reform programme in 2017 to move towards a more market economic model and to strengthen the rule of law.

On Wednesday, the bank said its stake, the exact size of which it did not disclose, would by 2023 lead to a tripling in the number of Korzinka stores and almost double the number of staff from 5,000 now.

At the same time, the EBRD would “support the development of corporate governance, environmental and social standards, as well as health and safety procedures and practices,” the bank said.

The retail chain is controlled by Uzbek businessman Zafar Khashimov. (Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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