Monochrome by Centil Law: Go big or go home

Eager to unlock new development avenues, and less bothered by the woes posed by the pandemic in the West, the Central Asian states are ready to go big.

As KazMinerals’ majority shareholders, Vladimir Kim and Oleg Novachuk, prepare to go big on the takeover, having obtained regulatory approval of the privatisation, the fifth largest shareholder, RWC Partners, holding 3.3% of KazMinerals, is opposed to the offer of GBP 6.4 per share. The market price for the shares stands at GBP 7.16. Now Nova Resources is expected to present a new offer on 4 February.

Kazakhstan-based nickel and cobalt mining startup, Battery Metals Technologies, has big ambitions as it teases an IPO in Hong Kong. The funds are expected to be reinvested in the development of the Gornostayevskoye deposit near the Kazakh-Chinese border, which is one of the largest nickel deposits in the country. The total cost of such a project is currently estimated at $1.5bn.

As expected, Japarov won the presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan with nearly 80% of votes. His populist rhetoric was welcomed coinciding with the disillusionment with the elite, particularly amongst the rural population. To his benefit, the referendum results also support the switch to the presidential rule. The parliamentary system was adopted a decade ago to tame authoritarianism.

Kazakhstan’s parliamentary elections were also predictable, as the ruling Nur Otan party, chaired by the former President Nazarbayev, won the majority of seats in the lower house with almost 72% of votes. At the following press conference, Nazarbayev voiced his support for continuity in governance, suggesting another mandate for Askar Mamin as Prime Minister, who was first appointed in 2019.

As part of the 2021-2022 state program for the development of agriculture, 3 districts of Namangan will specialise in intense cultivation of millet, vineyards, oil plants, leguminous and vegetable crops, as well as produce seeds, including grapes and fruit trees seedlings. Horticultural farms will benefit from a 3 years tax holiday and the plantations will be leased to the local population for 47 years.

The US-based irrigation technology company, The Valley Irrigation entered an investment agreement with the Kazakhstan-based diversified international holding, Kusto Group, and the Ministry of Agriculture to build a plant for the production of advanced irrigation systems that would increase the crop yield and reduce water consumption by 50-70%, with at least 1,000 pivot machines per year.

Uzbekistan intends to mobilise up to $50m to support the Abraham Fund, backed by the US International Development Finance Corporationwhich. The $3bn fund was launched in 2020 by the US, Israel, and the UAE with a view of promoting economic cooperation, private sector-led investment and development initiatives in the Middle East and beyond.

In an unusual collaboration, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan inaugurated three connectivity projects. These are a Karki-Andkhoy-Pul-e Khomri 500kv power transmission line, part of the larger project along the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan route, a 30km interstate railway road together with small bridges and level crossings, and 2 fiber-optics projects providing 2,500 MBS of broadband internet.

Azerbaijani Azercosmos announced a new partnership with the Belgian satellite service provider SatADSL. Through a Cloud-based Service Delivery Platform, the agencies intend to extend internet access across Central Asia, using the Central Asian beam of the Azerspace-1 satellite. Last year, UK’s OneWeb partnered with Kazakhstan to expand the low-latency broadband in the country by 2022.

Bullish on the untapped potential of Uzbekistan, JCB International, the Japanese card issuer, began merchant acquiring there to benefit from the prospects of an increased tourist flow to the region from Russia. Merchant acquiring operations will be overseen by UzPSB, hoping to encourage cashless payments. JCB also launched a web API-based payment service with real-time payments software provider ACI Worldwide.

Finishing off, the Uzbek British Trade and Industry Council announced an online conference on 3 February, to discuss business opportunities in Uzbekistan.

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