The heart of Kazakhstan’s economy, Samruk-Kazyna has, since its inception, played a crucial role in the country’s industry and economy. Now the fund is ready to float some of its assets at discounted prices to retail investors. By Clare Nuttall
Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna put to work billions of US dollars to support the economy during the global economic crisis. With Kazakhstan growing strongly, the fund’s role has evolved – it is now responsible for creating new industries and increasing efficiency in the economy’s most important companies.
This year will see further dramatic changes, as minority stakes in some of its largest and most attractive companies are floated on the domestic stock exchange. Samruk-Kazyna was created in the depths of the crisis through the merger of two existing organizations – holding company Samruk and investment company Kazyna – in October 2008, and its importance to the Kazakh economy cannot be overestimated. Its subsidiary companies include the national rail and postal companies, electricity grid operator Kegoc, state oil-and-gas giant National Company KazMunaiGas, nuclear company Kazatomprom, national air carrier Air Astana, and three of the top four banks. It is also the parent of the Damu small enterprise fund, private equity fund of funds Kazyna Capital Management, and other financial organizations.
Overall, Samruk-Kazyna manages assets worth in excess of $70 billion, accounting for around 40 percent of the economic activity in the country. It has a total of 404 subsidiaries and affiliated companies. As of March 2010, Samruk-Kazyna announced it had invested KZT897 billion ($6.1 billion) from Kazakhstan’s National Fund to support the economy during the crisis. Its largest financial commitment was to the banking sector, where it invested some KZT486 billion.
Other anti-crisis measures included supporting the real-estate sector (KZT360 billion), support for small and medium-sized enterprises (KZT120 billion) and implementing industrial and infrastructure projects (KZT121.5 billion).
Samruk-Kazyna became the majority shareholder of BTA Bank and Alliance Bank, injecting liquidity when both were on the brink of collapse in February 2009. Today, a debt restructuring for the two banks has been agreed with creditors.
At the same time, the fund took minority stakes in Kazakhstan’s other big-four banks, Halyk Bank and Kazkommertsbank. Now that GDP growth in Kazakhstan has returned to pre-crisis levels, Samruk-Kazyna is starting to divest some of the assets it acquired during the crisis. The fund has already exited its investment in Halyk, selling the stake back to the bank and its majority shareholder Almex.
Kazkommertsbank could buy back its shareholding in the near future. A sale of BTA to Russia’s Sberbank is still on the cards and Samruk-Kazyna is also looking at potential exit routes for Alliance, but it is adamant that it will sell its shareholdings only if the price is right.
Post crisis, Samruk-Kazyna is involved in raising the efficiency of its subsidiaries, and is the main conduit for big foreign investment projects. The emphasis within Kazakhstan has shifted toward production of processed and value-added products, rather than being purely a supplier of raw materials.
Several of the priority projects within the 2010-14 Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development program are aimed at achieving this goal. Samruk-Kazyna is already working to diversify and industrialize Kazakhstan. The ‘breakthrough projects’ under the Samruk-Kazyna umbrella include reconstruction of the Atyrau refinery, modernization of the national electricity grid and construction of several new power stations. Within Samruk-Kazyna, two holding companies created in late 2008 are responsible for the chemicals and metals sectors, respectively. The United Chemicals Company was set up to develop a national chemicals industry and reduce Kazakhstan’s dependence on imports of products such as fertilizers. Tau Ken Samruk is the holding company for the Kazakh government’s stakes in metals and mining companies. While oil and gas still account for the lion’s share of Kazakhstan’s exports, metals and mining have been growing in importance in recent years.
Soaring metals prices, and the steady growth in demand from neighboring China in particular, have provided an impetus for Kazakhstan to increase its output. The government stakes in two major London Stock Exchange-listed mining companies – Eurasian Natural Resources Company (ENRC) and Kazakhmys – are held within Tau Ken Samruk. Both companies have an immense presence in the Kazakhstan mining sector, as well as internationally.
Kazakhmys is the largest copper producer in Kazakhstan and one of the top 10 producers worldwide. ENRC – a diversified natural resources group – has a presence in China, Russia, Brazil and Africa, as well as in Kazakhstan. This year has already seen significant changes for Samruk-Kazyna. On April 12, Timur Kulibayev was promoted to chairman as part of the post-elections reshuffle. Kulibayev, the son-in-law of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, was previously the company’s deputy chairman.
The fund’s main task this year will be to carry out the ‘People’s IPO’ program, under which shares in companies that are wholly or partly owned by Samruk-Kazyna will be offered at a discount to retail investors and pension funds. In addition to raising funds for expansion, the program is also intended to stimulate the domestic capital market.
At least some of the IPOs are due to take place by the end of this year. Companies expected to be part of the first wave of IPOs include power-generation company Samruk-Energo, electricity grid operator Kegoc, postal service Kazpost and KazMunaiGas Exploration and Production. In the following two years, IPOs of other companies – including Kazatomprom, National Company KazMunaiGas, and railway operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy – are planned.
SOURCE: Invest in Kazakhstan, 2011, p. 45-46