a market milestone

Uzbekistan’s deputy prime minister tells Sebastian Shehadi about the symbolic importance of the country’s sovereign bond debut to its FDI performance.

Q: I understand that Uzbekistan's recent sovereign bond issuance was oversubscribed.

A: We didn’t increase the volume of issuance: it was intended to be up to $1bn. But yes, the order was very high, more than expected. The final sum of orders was $3.8bn.

Q: Why did Uzbekistan embark on this sovereign bond debut? The country does not appear to need it in terms of government financing.

A: We don’t have a strong need to raise money and finance a budget deficit or government spending. The bond debut is to make a benchmark with big banks and companies who will come to the market, but also a benchmark for investors: how much is Uzbekistan’s market worth? This is credit cost, the price for money that is borrowed by Uzbekistan. So the bonds demonstrate accountability from Uzbekistan’s government in front of investors and businesspeople. The bonds will put the economy in good shape in order to keep prices stable.

Q: Is the privatisation and restructuring of some of Uzbekistan’s key state-owned enterprises [SOEs] a priority?

A: One of the main tasks of the government in 2019 is the restructuring of SOEs. Such reforms are a priority for us. As a first step, we are going to deeply restructure the SOEs, and we will introduce international standards of corporate management, reporting, accounting and auditing. After that they will be up for privatisation.

Q: How are you further reassuring investors of the protection of their investment rights?

A: The philosophy of the new leadership of Uzbekistan is completely different. This bond issue is evidence of what we’re doing to provide certain guarantees to investors. We were just rated BB- by Fitch and S&P, so after any nationalisation, you can imagine what would happen to our sovereign rating.

Q: What is a less obvious sector in Uzbekistan in which you would like to see more FDI?

A: I would highlight two sectors. First, tourism, in terms of hotels and infrastructure. Second, electricity generation. Right now, the Asian Development Bank [ADB] is finishing a masterplan for the development of power plants in Uzbekistan, because the majority of our current plants are very old, inefficient and consume a lot of gas. We are going to work with the ADB, and others, in order to implement public-private partnerships for electricity generation. We would go for privatisation as a next step. We are looking for billions of dollars of investment. Of course, investment in the gas and chemical sectors is very important, but I think electricity will be a bigger one in the coming years.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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