Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce in the USA


New uses for sulphur solve ecological problems 1

Posted on April 02, 2010 by KazCham

OVER RECENT YEARS, more than eight million tonnes of yellow sulphur has stacked up around Tengiz and  other North Caspian oil and gas sites. However, with  new technologies being developed and implemented, sulphur is in demand and the stacks are shrinking.

Rising high above the flat steppe, the ‘sulphur  mountains’ are the inevitable by-product of  processing plants that strip sulphur and other impurities from the corrosive, high-pressure oil  brought to the surface from 5km below the surfaces.

At Balkhash, on the shores of the eponymous crescent-shaped lake, nearly 2,000km east, clouds of  poisonous sulphur dioxide and other gases used to be released into the atmosphere from copper smelting  operations at the country’s biggest non-ferrous  mining complex. But yesterday’s ecological embarrassments, which  cost oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon and  copper miner Kazakhmys tens of millions of dollars a  year in fines from environmental protection agencies  and local authorities, have been turned into money- spinning sidelines. New technologies are in place that are processing sulphur and finding new uses for the inert, and once virtually worthless, yellow powder.

New uses include adding sulphur to bitumen and  other road-making materials to improve the climate  resistance of road surfaces. Pioneered by Shell in  Canada, which has a similar climate, the sulphur- based additives offer a promising new market close to  home as Kazakhstan prepares to invest heavily in new  highways, including a motorway from China to Europe.

But the really important new market to emerge is  the uranium mining industry, which increasingly uses  sulphuric acid as a solvent in the in situ leach mining  technology pioneered by Kazatomprom, soon to  become the world’s largest producer of the radioactive  mineral that powers nuclear power stations.

Sulphur prices have risen sharply as a result of  these new markets and growing demand from  traditional users of sulphur as a raw material  for agricultural fertilisers. The storage and  transportability of sulphur has also been improved by pelletising the compacted powder in ways that make  it much easier to handle.

Tengiz, in which Chevron is the major shareholder  and operator, is currently selling more sulphur than it  is producing, despite a sharp rise in output from a $5  billion investment, which has doubled oil production  to 25 million tonnes a year from the giant onshore  field. Rising demand for the yellow stuff is steadily  slicing away the sulphur mountains, whose constant  growth was a major headache a few years ago.

In the meantime, a $130 million investment  in a new sulphuric acid plant at the giant Kazakhmys copper smelter, beside Lake Balkhash,  has transformed toxic fumes from smelting into  1.2 million tonnes of marketable sulphuric acid a  year, using technology designed by the Chemetics  subsidiary of Canada’s Aker Kvaerner.

Kazakhmys, quoted on the London Stock Exchange  since 2005, was hard hit by the sharp fall in global  copper and other metal prices last year, before  recovering on Chinese buying. But it has been partially  able to offset the decline in copper and zinc revenues  thanks to higher global prices for the gold refined as a  by-product of smelting polymetallic copper ores – and  a modest new source of income from sulphuric acid.

While the sulphur price in some markets has risen ten-fold, around $500 per tonne in recent years, the  local price is barely a tenth of that, reflecting the  isolation of most uranium and other mines and the  prohibitive costs of transporting competing product  from other suppliers. Kazakhmys sells 99 per cent  of its sulphur output to third parties, most of it to  Kazatomprom, which has several uranium mines in  the Balkhash area using the in situ leaching method.

The ecological benefits, however, are massive. As recently as 2006, Kazakhmys, which is committed to  achieving international safety and environmental  standards, struggled to cut its emissions through  conventional abatement technology. This helped cut emissions by 9 per cent in 2007, but it still emitted a  massive 706,000 tonnes into the atmosphere before  the new plant permitted a six-fold reduction in  noxious discharges.

Kazatomprom, meanwhile, mixes the sulphuric  acid with hydrogen peroxide to produce a powerful  solvent, which it injects into uranium bearing  deposits deep underground. The new technology,  developed in-house, cuts out the need for traditional  surface or deep mines – both of which have a much  heavier environmental impact than leaching. Taken together, the big reduction in toxic gas emissions  by Kazakhmys and more environmentally friendly  uranium mining from Kazatomprom represent two  big advances in tackling Kazakhstan’s Soviet legacy of environmental neglect.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Pages:74-75.

Gazprom, KazMunayGas to explore Imashevskoye condensate field – draft agreement 0

Posted on March 31, 2010 by KazCham

Moscow. March 30. Interfax – Russia and Kazakhstan have drafted an intergovernmental agreement covering joint geological study and exploration of the Imashevskoye gas condensate field, which straddles the two countries’ border.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed the instruction approving the draft agreement on March 25.

Once the reserves have been calculated and registered, and the decision to proceed with development has been made, a new agreement will be drafted covering the terms for developing the field.

The document designates Gazprom and Kazakh national oil and gas company KazMunayGas (KMG) as the authorized organizations for work at the field. They will share the revenue from joint operations 50-50. The authorized organizations will jointly appoint the operator.

The authorized bodies are the Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry, Rosnedra, Rosprirodnadzor and Rostekhnadzor on the Russian side and the Energy Ministry on the Kazakh side. They will form a joint coordinating committee with three representatives from each country. The Russian delegation to the committee will be headed by the Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry. The committee will meet at least once a year.

The sides should issue the relevant license to the authorized license holder no more than 100 days from the moment the agreement enters force.

Gazprom and KMG will prepare the program for geological study of the field. Geological information on the field will be presented to the national geological information agencies on confidential terms.

The Imashevskoye field is located east northeast of Astrakhan in Russia and southwest of Atyrau in Kazakhstan. Explored gas reserves exceed 100 billion cubic meters with a sulfur content of 15%-17%.

The Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry will sign the agreement for Russia.

SOURCE: http://www.interfax.kz/?lang=eng&int_id=10&news_id=3376

The BTA saga 0

Posted on March 26, 2010 by KazCham

ONCE UPON A time, all six of Kazakhstan’s biggest  banks were Kazakh-owned and accounted for 86 per cent of banking assets. They stayed home-owned,  unlike most banks in central Europe, because they  borrowed to fund their headlong growth by raising  cheap equity in London and/or by borrowing lots  of money, very cheaply, from foreign banks –  $45 billion, to be precise.

By the time the fairy story ended, in August  2007, two of the ‘big six’ banks, ATF Bank and  BankCenterCredit (BCC), had already been sold, at very high multiples at the top of the market,  to Italy’s UniCredit and South Korea’s Kookmin Bank respectively. Several others, including  Kazkommertsbank (KKB), had also linked up with  foreign minority partners.

They were the lucky ones. Once Kazakh banks  became victims of the US sub-prime crisis, deep- pocketed foreign shareholders suddenly became  highly desirable and are now being actively sought by -»Alliance Bank, and above all, BTA Bank.

BTA was effectively nationalised in mid-February  when the government, in the shape of the Samruk/ Kazyna holding company, shovelled nearly $5 billion  into the banking system and took a controlling  75.1 per cent stake in BTA in return for $1.7 billion of  fresh equity.

In a conference call with BTAs investors and  creditors on 28 April, Anvar Saidenov, the former  Central Bank president who now runs BTA, explained  that Samruk had acquired the controlling stake “via a mandatory additional share issue… as a result of BTA  being in breach of liquidity and capital requirement.”BTAs ousted former president, Mukhtar Ablyazov,  didn’t see it that way. He complained that the bank  had been the victim of an egregious act of corporate  raiding, before fleeing the country ahead of the  bailiffs. He is now required to respond to accusations  of money-laundering and illegally transferring  funds to front companies. From a safe distance,  Ablyazov has started legal proceedings in an attempt  to get billions of dollars in compensation for the  bank’s former owners, although he is not formally a  shareholder in the bank himself, according to Central Bank chief, Grigori Marchenko.

Ablyazov, long viewed with suspicion by the  establishment, is a boyish-looking, hyper-active  entrepreneur, and former energy minister. He helped  finance and lead the opposition Democratic Choice  movement earlier in the decade before being jailed  for allegedly misappropriating funds. After a year in  jail he was given a presidential pardon and released,  promising to give up politics and throw his energies  into business.

By the time the global financial crisis broke two  years ago, Ablyazov and chairman Roman Solodchenko had built BTA into the country’s biggest bank. In the  process they borrowed more than $15 billion – mostly  in foreign currency – and re-lent much of the money  into property and other projects in Kazakhstan and  throughout the former Soviet Union.

While commodity prices remained high, for the  first year of the crisis, BTA, along with other heavily  indebted banks, was able to repay maturing debt and  interest by recalling maturing loans and rolling over  loans at higher rates. But when commodity prices  nose-dived in the second half of 2008, in the global  meltdown that followed the collapse of Lehman  Brothers, corporate balance sheets contracted, cash  evaporated and depositors looked for a safer home. Tenge devaluation in early February added further to  the foreign debt burden of all banks, but especially  BTA as the most indebted.

When Samruk/Kazyna took possession of their  new asset, Anvar Saidenov, the former Central Bank  president, moved in to take charge and a small army  of finance police moved in to the bank to go through  the books and computer files with a fine toothcomb.

The cultural change is dramatic – from free- wheeling, growth-orientated, entrepreneurial  whiz-bang the bank is now just ticking over in  the safe hands of a former central banker and  financial bureaucrats. Little wonder, under the circumstances, that the main priorities of the new  management are to restructure the bank’s debt as  soon as possible and find a new owner to rebuild the h bank. UBS and Goldman Sachs have been called in as financial advisers.

Their task became more difficult after the  new management was forced to default on BTAs  foreign loans in April. Morgan Stanley and another  international banks called in loans totalling $550  million, triggering what would have been an  avalanche of early repayment demands, which the  state made quite clear it was not prepared to deplete  its reserves to satisfy.

The US investment bank justified the move as  a response to changes in ownership covenants  following Samruk’s defenestration of the old regime  and downgrades by the international rating agencies.  Standard and Poors moved BTA debt to “default”  status and Fitch downgraded BTAs long-term issuer  default rating to “restricted default” as the new state  owners are continuing to pay interest on outstanding debt and repaying smaller loans, below $10 million,  as they come due.

BTA is not alone in its default. In May, Alliance  Bank requested a three-month moratorium on  debt repayments after writing down $1.1 billion  of assets linked to US Treasuries. BTA, Halyk, KKB  and other banks, meanwhile, have raised new bond  issues domestically where possible to shore up their  capital base and allow them to buy up some of their distressed bonds at a discount.

With BTA formerly scheduled to pay back  $3 billion this year out of $9 billion of foreign loans  still outstanding, the new owners have taken a  tougher line with creditors, pointing out that those  granting foreign loans and credits to Kazakh and  other emerging market banks in the boom years  were all professionals who should have been aware  of the risks.

At the annual Fitch rating conference in April,  Elena Bakhmutova, chairperson of the Kazakh Agency for Regulation and Supervision of Financial Markets  and Financial Organisations (KFSE), said: “We will use all feasible suggestions – redemption of discounts,  substitution of new debt securities and so on.” But,  she underlined “under no circumstances will state  guarantees be used.” It is on this basis that BTAs  new owners are negotiating debt-restructuring terms h with creditors to clear the ground for substantive  negotiations with potential new owners.

The leading suitor is Russia’s giant Sberbank, the  former Soviet savings bank. Ownership of BTA would  give Moscow a powerful new role in the Kazakh  economy. Russia, however, is also suffering from the  global economic crisis and Sberbank is having its own  problems with mounting bad debts. However, the  Russian state is preparing a substantial recapitalisation of Sberbank, both to strengthen it domestically and  provide it with the financial firepower to take over BTA if terms can be agreed. Whether any other suitors  emerge depends largely on the evolution of the  banking crisis elsewhere in the world.

Looking ahead, the chance to buy what was  Kazakhstan’s biggest bank, with subsidiaries  throughout Central Asia, is probably an unrepeatable opportunity. But deep pockets and strong nerves are  called for, and both are currently in short supply.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Page: 82-83.

Foreign banks 0

Posted on March 22, 2010 by KazCham

WITH THE BENEFIT of hindsight, the timing of the  first major foray by foreign banks into the domestic  banking market could hardly have been worse. But  from a long-term perspective, the decision of Italy’s  UniCredit and South Korea’s Kookmin Bank to  pay $2.3 billion and $1 billion respectively for ATF  and BankCentreCredit (BCC) just before the global  financial crisis erupted in the summer of 2007 could h well turn out to be prescient once Kazakhstan and Central Asia return to the path of rapid growth.

For UniCredit, the move into Central Asia’s richest h and most dynamic economy was an extension of its  previous foray into Central Europe as the acquisitive  Italian bank looked to diversify beyond slow-growing western European markets. For Kookmin, expansion  into resource-rich Kazakhstan reflected both  expectations of faster growth than Korea itself and  a chance to position itself for an expected influx of  South Korean investment in energy and commodity projects – including nuclear. In May 2009, Kookmin’s  chairman was a prominent member of a South Korean business delegation which earmarked projects worth $5 billion for investment by Korean companies  and banks.

“We strongly believe that a strategic partnership  will bring us competitive advantages and make it  easier to deal with any financial wobbles,” says Timur  Ishmuratov, managing director of BCC’s international  department. “Kookmin, like our bank, has a focus  on the retail and SME [small- and medium-sized  enterprises] market. It offers some very good products,  based on sophisticated IT infrastructure, which could  potentially be very good for our clients, too.”

Kazakh banks grew by focusing on corporate  finance and the construction sector. In both cases,  personal contacts were often key to business. While  local banks were active in the corporate market, their  understanding and penetration of the retail market,  especially mortgage lending, was low. Just as they  were developing expertise in these areas, retail and  mortgage lending became the first casualties of the  sub-prime crisis.

Some foreign banks spotted the opportunity to  expand, while local banks pulled back to focus on  repaying debts. HSBC, for example, one of several  foreign banks working in Kazakhastan for more  than a decade, recently decided to open several  new branches and make an additional $100 million  available for mortgage finances

Before the entry of UniCredit and Kookmin into  mainstream banking, most foreign banks, including Citibank and ABN-Ambro, concentrated on servicing the Kazakh subsidiaries of international companies  and expats and facilitating foreign borrowing for  Kazakh banks and companies. ABN was acquired  by Royal Bank of Scotland and its former Kazakh  subsidiary is now looking for a new owner following the virtual nationalisation of RBS itself in the UK  banking meltdown.

Before the global crisis brought banking back  to Earth, dozens of foreign banks were seeking to  get a foothold in the market by buying a Kazakh  bank. But prices were sky high and several potential  foreign buyers, such as Austria’s Raiffeisen, which  first sought to buy BTA several years ago, were unable to find suitable acquisition targets at an acceptable  price. “We observed the market but the prices did  not reflect the environment and potential risks, so  we decided to start from scratch,” a bank spokesman  said. The alternative plan to start a greenfleld bank is  currently on hold.

Now may be a good time for potential buyers  to look again, however. While the government is  focused on finding a new foreign owner for BTA, new  regulations setting a tenge 5 billion ($3.5 million)  minimum capital requirement for Kazakh banks  come into force in July, putting pressure on smaller  banks to consolidate or put themselves up for sale.  International Bank of Alma ty, with a capital of just  tenge 1.5 billion, was recently taken over, for example,  and is now being re-branded as Home Credit.

Ironically, just as Kazakh banks have become open  to takeover and more attractively priced, most foreign banks have drastically scaled back their expansion  plans. “Without the international crisis I would say  that we could expect more investment in Kazakhstan, h because prices are now optimal,” says Alexander  Picker, the Austrian president of ATF Bank. “But,  while any bank not looking to expand in Central and  Eastern Europe used to get a bad mark from analysts,  now it’s the opposite. I don’t know how many banks  will be brave enough to see the potential and act. It  depends very much on the bravery and anti-cyclical  ideas of boardrooms – many of which are in survival  mode at present.”

Several investment banks, including JP Morgan,  which has an important advisory role with Kazakhmys h and other big corporates, and Deutsche Bank, have  recently set up representative offices in Almaty,  to show the flag and be ready for more ambitious  moves, when the time is right. There is currently high  demand for advisory services – with UBS and Goldman h Sachs, for example, recently taken on as advisers to the government on settling the future of BTA.

Russian banks are also stepping up their presence. Sberbank, currently eyeing up BTA, leads the pack  while VTB, Russia’s former foreign trade bank, has  pared down its expansion plans for the CIS generally to concentrate on what it sees as the most attractive  markets – Kazakhstan and Azerbaijani

On the investment banking side, Russia’s Troika  followed Renaissance Capital into Kazakhstan  last year through the acquisition of local asset  management house Almex, and there is also  interest from further afield. Israel’s Bank Hapoalim,  for example, completed its acquisition of Demir Kazakhstan Bank (since re-branded Bank Pozitiv) in  November 2007, and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi is due -to set up a representative office in early 2009, with  the initial aim of serving Japanese companies.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Page: 84-86.

Kazakhstan overview 2010: Oil & Gas 0

Posted on March 17, 2010 by KazCham

Kazakhstan has the Caspian Sea’s largest recoverable crude oil reserves. The Government of Kazakhstan and foreign investors continue to focus heavily on the hydrocarbons sector, which so far has received approximately 60% of the estimated $76 billion in foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan since 1991, and constitutes approximately 53% of its export revenue. Existing oil extraction sites offshore in the North Caspian, combined with onshore fields currently under development, mark Kazakhstan as a potentially major near-term oil exporter. Over the past seven years, oil
production in Kazakhstan has more than doubled and reached 1.62 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2009. Major producers include Tengiz, Karachaganak, CNPC Aktobemunaigas, Uzenmunaigas, Mangistaumunaigas, and Kumkol, all of which account for 1 million bbl/d. Output solely from the country’s three major fields (offshore Kashagan, onshore Karachaganak, and onshore Tengiz) is set to grow to 1.7 millionbbl /d by 2011 and to 2 million bbl/d by 2015.

Kazakhstan now accommodates significant investment in its vast upstream oil and gas resources and government forecasts predict that oil exports could reach as much as 3.5 million barrels per day in 2015. Most of this year’s production increase will come from the onshore Tengiz and Karachaganak fields.

The huge offshore Kashagan field, with an estimated 7-9 billion barrels of recoverable oil, is expected to come on stream by the end of 2012, but first commercial oil production will not exceed 100,000 bbl/d. The magnitude of the resource could result in Kazakhstan becoming one of the world’s major energy exporters by the end of the next
decade. This jump in production has also stimulated planning for processing plants and pipelines to come on-line in time for the start of production.

Best Prospects/Services

Return to top Oil industry sources estimate that Kazakhstan could eventually attract up to $140 billion of foreign investment in its oil infrastructure. The current market for oil and gas field equipment and services slowed in 2009 due to, 1) low oil prices and the economic crisis and 2) cuts in capital expenditures by oil and gas exploration and production companies.

But overall demand remains strong with opportunities for U.S. companies in virtually every sub sector associated with oil extraction, processing, and transportation. Best prospects include: drilling, research and data management, laboratory studies, oil spill cleanup technologies, and pipeline equipment and services.

Kazakhstan as yet has no experience in offshore production and operations. This experience gap offers many opportunities for U.S. service companies in rig work, support infrastructure, and environmentally sensitive technologies. The Caspian Basin’s oil-bearing formations are generally quite deep (15,000 feet), under considerable
pressure, and often contain a high degree of sulfur and other contaminants, making special Western-made drilling and processing equipment necessary.

U.S. oil and gas field equipment suppliers have the potential for solid growth over the next decade as new fields are brought on-stream and secondary recovery methods are introduced to existing deposits. The most promising sub-sectors are the following: offshore/onshore oil and gas drilling and production equipment; turbines, compressors
and pumps for pipeline applications; measurement and process control equipment for pipeline applications; industrial automation, control and monitoring systems for refineries, gas processing and petrochemical plants, seismic processing and interpretation, petroleum software development, sulfur removal and disposal technologies, well stimulation and field abandonment services.

Plenty of other opportunities exist for U.S. companies producing oil and gas field equipment and machinery such as drilling and wellhead equipment, Christmas trees, valves, pumps, motors, compressors, electrical submersible and jet pumps, underwater repair equipment, and oil spill containment equipment. Good prospects also exist for U.S. small- and medium-size firms offering downstream engineering and services such as fabrication, welding, engineering services and testing in accordance with API and ASME standards.


The Government of Kazakhstan is pursuing a development program for oil fields in the Caspian Sea that calls for increasing offshore oil production to about 2 million bpd by 2015, and for development of terrestrial infrastructure. The offshore development program also calls for more than 100 offshore blocks to be privatized through open
tenders. These future projects, combined with current production and exploration, should provide opportunities for interested U.S. exporters over the next few decades.


North Caspian Operating Company: http://www.ncoc.kz/
Atyrau Oil & Gas 2010 – http://www.oil-gas.kz/ru/
Caspian Pipeline Consortium: www.cpc.ru/
Kazakhstan International Oil & Gas Exhibition and Conference (KIOGE) 2010 – http://www.kioge.com/2010/
Kazakh Institute of Oil and Gas (KING): http://www.king.kz/
Kazakhstan Petroleum Association: www.kpa.kz/
KazEnergy Association: http://www.kazenergy.com/
KazMunayTeniz: www.kazmunayteniz.kz/
KazStroyService: www.kazstroyservice.kz/
KazTransGas: www.kaztransgas.kz/
KazTransOil: www.kaztransoil.kz

SOURCE OF PUBLICATION: Kazakhstan O&G overview 2010 by Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies. http://www.buyusainfo.net/docs/x_7387330.pdf

Tax and investment priorities 0

Posted on March 15, 2010 by KazCham

THE LATEST BI-ANNUAL session of the high-level Foreign Investors’ Council in the northern farming centre of Kostanai in June was called ostensibly to focus on the investment potential of the agriculture sector. But how Kazakhstan will continue to attract foreign investment generally in the context of the new tax structure introduced at the start of the year was at the forefront of the minds of many senior executives and government officials who took part.

The global economic outlook and the government’s current focus  on ‘shovel-ready’, local content agricultural and infrastructure  programmers is light-years away from the world of 24-hour a day  whirling tower cranes and sky-high commodity prices, which  provided the optimistic background to earlier drafts  of the new 2009 tax code that came into effect at the  start of the new year.

Drafters took their cue from President Nazarbayev’s annual address of February 2008 when he called for a new tax code that “must be aligned with the objectives of the new phase in Kazakhstan’s development, a code designed to promote modernization and diversification of the economy”.  In setting out the basic principles of the new code, the president added that the most important element h was to be “a reduction of the total tax burden on non-commodity sectors of the economy, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.” To underline this, he added: “The expected shortfall in government h revenue should be offset by greater economic returns from the extractive sector.”

A year later, in his address to the nation in March 2009, at a time when the authorities were grappling with the banking crisis and re-adjusting to the global collapse in prices of the country’s commodity exports, President Nazarbayev re-affirmed h the strategic direction “charted in the National Development Strategy until 2030” which is “economic growth based on the developed market economy with a high level of foreign investment”.

With the onset of spring came the first tentative signs of recovery from the depths of the crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. Oil and other commodity prices  started to rise, mainly on Chinese buying, and the  shares of Kazakhstan’s internationally-traded mining  and resource stocks recovered much of their previous – losses on the London and Kazakh stock exchanges.  Kazakhstan, the first country to be hit by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis in August 2007, suddenly started to look like one of the best placed to get back to sustained growth.

Shaken, but not stirred, the economy’s survival is partly the prize for years of careful state budgeting.  This allowed the accumulation of more than $40 billion of reserves in the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the Oil Fund while oil prices were high and reduced the need for public borrowing when market conditions suddenly turned hostile. Running down the previously acquired surplus allowed fiscal expansion and a $21 billion bank and enterprise rescue package to be financed domestically in large part, although a $10 billion oil-asset for-finance deal with China in April certainly helped to steady nerves.

The weak point in the economy was that the public-sector surplus was more than offset by heavy foreign borrowing by the private sector, which issued substantial foreign equity and accumulated debt before the markets turned sour. So while Kazakhstan’s trade has remained in surplus, the current account turned sharply negative as banks and corporate borrowers confronted unexpectedly large foreign debt obligations, which have either had to be refinanced at substantially higher rates or partly rescheduled.

Even with the deployment of accumulated oil revenues, an external funding gap of more than 11 per cent of GDP still needs to be covered by foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2009, despite the fact that the slowdown in economic growth will cut the import bill. The big question is, will that investment come under the new tax regime?

A new tax system

The new tax code came into force at the start of January 2009. It was prepared in near-record time during 2008 and some haste can be perceived in its content. As the global economy continued to deteriorate in early 2009, the Kazakh leadership called for a ‘moratorium’ on further tax code changes until after 1 July. This showed understanding that tax h policy adjustments alone would not provide a ‘quick fix’, however critical tax policy remained for meeting longer term macro-economic challenges.

In keeping with the generally-progressive policy that Kazakhstan has sustained in tax policy reform, the new code represents some, albeit incomplete, forward thinking. It incorporates provisions to help improve clarity and certainty in the tax system as to the rights and obligations of taxpayers and of the state’s fiscal and other relevant agencies.

Among its key policy objectives are reduction of the tax burden on the non-extractive sectors and individuals; and a substantial increase in that of subsurface users and large taxpayers, more generally.  This approach seeks, in a supposedly ‘revenue- neutral’ way, to hasten the diversification of the economy into non-extractive sectors.

Concurrently entering into force is an amended transfer pricing law, which continues negatively to exert control over specified business transactions, whether between related or unrelated parties. In prospect during 2009 are related laws to control money-laundering and fiscal fraud, as well as an amended law on sub-surface use. New outline administrative arrangements orders and procedures are being promulgated to guide the operations of the fiscal agencies.

These new and revised instruments were essentially conceived in economic times more robust than when their entry into force took place. The government may well have acted presciently with tax cuts for the non-extractive sectors which could provide a stimulus h to business activity during the economic crisis. That remains to be seen. But what is already clear is that the new fiscal regime for the oil and minerals sectors provides no incentive to the foreign investment considered essential for achieving the 2030 strategy.  Moreover, a continuing, unfortunate aspect of the tax system for all taxpayers is the ‘gap’ between tax policy and the tax laws and their administration, which some investors believe had begun to show almost ‘Bolivars’ tendencies.

The business tax regime

One of the key elements in the new code is a reduction in the corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 30 per cent to 20 per cent, dropping further to 17.5 per cent in 2010 and 15 per cent in 2011. Deductible expenses are correlated with the activities connected with earning income and the loss carry forward period is extended from three years, or seven years for -subsurface users, to ten years. For small and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) the obligation to calculate and pay CIT advance payments has been repealed.

CIT investment preferences are not available, however, to organizations operating in free economic zones or producing and/or selling excisable goods, or producers of agricultural products and village consumer’s co-operatives

The tax treatment of derivatives depends upon whether the instrument is a normal ‘derivative’ financial instrument, qualifies for hedging accounting, or involves delivery of a hedged item.  Hedging income or loss shall be tax accounted in accordance with the rules determined for the underlying hedged item. In other cases, income is taxable on its own and can be utilised only against income from other derivatives, subject to the ten-year -carry-forward period.

Another eye-catching element in the new code  is a reduction in VAT from 13 to 12 per cent, but  VAT now also applies to goods/services in special  economic zones, previously zero-rated, and to  geological exploration, also previously exempt. The reporting period is now quarterly and a simplified procedure of VAT refund for large ‘good faith’  taxpayers is introduced.

The property tax on immovable property assets rises to 1.5 per cent and investment preferences (including land tax preferences) have been repealed,  while the social tax continues its transition from the h existing regressive scale of 13 per cent to 5 per cent,  to a flat rate of 11 per cent.

Overview of the subsurface users’ fiscal regime

The abolition of CIT preferences is not applicable to assets used for activities within a subsurface use contract (effective from 1 January 2012). The government can permit a subsurface user to apply preferences under the subsurface use contracts  concluded between 1 January 2009 and 1 January  2012, if the extraction of minerals happened within  this period of time. Subsurface users applying investment preferences are not allowed to apply  double depreciation rates on fixed assets exploited in -Kazakhstan for the first time.

The stability of tax regimes remains valid only for production-sharing agreements signed prior to  1 January 2009, which underwent obligatory tax  ‘expertise’, and subsurface use contracts approved  by the president. For all other contracts, the current tax legislation applies. As to the signature bonus, the minimum starting bonus for exploration contracts  is $27,000; for production contracts, $29,000; for  mineral exploration contracts, $2,700; and for  mineral production contracts, $4,800.  The commercial discovery bonus tax base, at a rate  of 0.1 per cent, is determined by prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME), or as published in Piatt’s Crude Oil Marketwire. If minerals are not listed on the LME,  the base is determined by the planned production  costs indicated in the feasibility study.

A new, complex minerals production tax (MPT)  replaces Royalty, and under the new regime,  transportation costs are not deductible. MPT rates for  crude oil and gas condensate rise from five to 18 per  cent in 2009, to six to 19 per cent in 2010 and seven  to 20 per cent in 2011. For domestic sales, crude oil  and gas condensate tax rates drop by 50 per cent. The  MPT rate for exported natural gas is 10 per cent, but  for domestic sale, rates range from 0.5 per cent to 1.5  per cent. The rate for minerals that undergo initial  processing and for coal range from 0-22 per cent in  2009, rising to a maximum of 23 per cent in 2010 and  24 per cent in 2011. For coal itself, the rate is zero.

For crude oil and gas condensate, the MPT base  value is determined upon sale to a refinery within  Kazakhstan, at the actual selling price or upon  transfer for reprocessing/use for own needs, at the  production cost, determined under IFRS, increased by h 20 per cent. Export values are calculated on the basis  of average world prices, particularly for Urals Med &  Brent Dtd, published in Platts’ Crude Oil Marketwire.

For natural gas, the MPT base is the value of  extracted natural gas, determined upon domestic sale at the weighted average selling price and if used for  own needs at the production cost, determined under  IFRS, increased by 20 per cent.

Gas exports are valued at the average world price,  published in Crude Oil Marketwire.

For minerals (except common minerals) and  coal, the MPT base is the value of depleted mineral  resources and coal determined for minerals listed on  the LME, at average exchange prices and for minerals  not listed on the LME, at the weighted average  exchange prices at the time of sale or own-use.

A renovated excess profits tax (EPT) is charged on  the same sliding progressive scale from 0 per cent to  60 per cent, but the thresholds are changed.

The rent tax on oil exports applies to exported  crude oil, gas condensate and coal with rates for  exported crude and gas condensate up to 32 per  cent, linked to world market prices. The top bracket  is $200 per barrel and price thresholds are changed.  The tax base is determined as the exported volume  multiplied by the world price without deduction  of transportation expenditures. The tax rate for  exported coal is 2.1 per cent, with the tax base  determined as the exported volume multiplied  by the selling price – again without deduction of  transportation expenditures.

Outside the scope of the new tax code is an export  duty, which can be applied by government decree on  crude oil, bitumen and distillates with progressive  rates referenced to quarterly average world prices.  The rate in early May 2009 on crude oil was $139 per  tonne, with a reduced rate of $121.32 per tonne for  rent tax payers.

International taxation

The new code’s withholding tax (WHT) is levied  at 15 per cent on dividends and interest, with a  capital gains royalty of 16 per cent and a 20 per  cent charge on any income of an entity registered  in a tax haven. Insurance premiums under risk  insurance agreements are taxed at 10 per cent, while  income from international transportation services  and insurance premiums under risk reinsurance  agreements is charged at 5 per cent, and other  income at 20 per cent.

Further, the controlled foreign company rules now  apply to individuals and companies tax-resident in  Kazakhstan and in respect of tax havens where the  critical tax rate is 10 per cent or less.

The new tax code also prescribes exemption of  dividends from WHT for outbound dividends if a non- resident owns shares/participation interest for more  than three years, and if more than 50 per cent of the  value of shares/participation interest derives from  non-subsurface user’s property. It also exempts capital gains from WHT when received by a nonresident  from selling shares/participation interest, except for  shares in Kazakhstan residents holding subsurface  use rights and in foreign or Kazakhstan entities, if  more than 50 per cent of the shares’ value is derived  from subsurface user’s property. An extraordinary  collection mechanism is established for capital gains  of subsurface users

Tax administration

The new tax code introduces a tax accounting policy  requirement upon taxpayers, prescribes separate tax  accounting rules, provides for submission of a single  CIT return by a subsurface user operating under  ring-fenced contracts and stipulates submission of  financial statements under IFRS, along with a CIT  return. Administrative responsibility lies with  the taxpayers

The new tax code

While imposing tax is a sovereign right of states,  attracting FDI is a ‘bilateral’ issue determined by  a range of parameters, including tax. We believe  that in respect of the key extractive industries  sector, Kazakhstan’s new tax code largely ignores  internationally-proven criteria for attracting  investment. These include incentives to encourage  full and efficient exploitation of hydrocarbons  that are economic before tax, an equitable balance  between government and contractor interests,  and the stability needed to support long-term  investment. Attracting FDI is also helped by clarifying administration and simplifying compliance together  with a focus on profit rather than production as the  tax object.

In the new tax code the maximum rate of mineral  production tax (MPT) is 20 per cent, compared to  6 per cent for the replaced royalty at the equivalent  production level, while the maximum rate of  export rent tax is 32 per cent, still based on world  prices, although temporarily adjusted to 0 per  cent by government decree. Both of these taxes are  contingent upon the current average prices for the  fiscal period prevalent at the International (London)  Stock Exchange, but without provision for deduction  of transportation costs.

This means, therefore, that the marginal tax rate  on the upper tier of production is effectively much  higher than the simple addition of 32 per cent plus  20 per cent equals 52 per cent, since transportation  costs are one of the most significant costs of oil field  development in Kazakhstan. Thus, if it costs, for  example, $10-$20 a barrel to move oil from a Kazakh  oil field to Europe, the market value of oil produced  at that field in Kazakhstan is Brent minus $10-$20.

With the addition of transport charges, oil  companies now bear the tax on revenues they never  received, but earned instead by other entities,  including Kazakh state-owned companies. The result  is that internal rates of return (IRRs) – even at oil  prices as high as $65/barrel – fail to meet the oil  companies’ investment hurdles.

ITIC believes that other positive changes to encourage responsible and complete exploitation of subsurface territories would include reinstating  the VAT exemption on the transfer of subsurface  licenses and or rights and the elimination of  ring-fencing. Most importantly, the code should include transportation and other ‘netback’ costs in computation of both the MPT and excess profits tax.

Further tax reform needed to sustain competitiveness and help meet President Nazarbeyev’s goal of joining the “world’s 50 most competitive nations” should commend itself to the Astana  authorities and legislators as they address the issue  after 1 July. Reform of the subsurface users’ tax  regime, in particular, is needed to attract further,  mutually-equitable investment into the extractive  sectors. The current new code, drawn up during record high commodity prices with the explicit intent of  increasing the government’s take, makes the economic attractiveness of new investments questionable. *

This is an edited version of a more detailed analysis by Daniel Witt, president of the International  Tax and Investment Center in Washington, and  Douglas Townsend, senior adviser to ITIC and former Australian ambassador to Kazakhstan. ITIC has been  working on tax and investment reforms in the former Soviet republics since 1993. A more detailed version is available on www.iticnet.org under ‘publications’.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Page: 92-95.

The Caspian basin’s biggest gas condensate field pauses for breath 0

Posted on March 10, 2010 by KazCham

KARACHAGANAK, ONE OF the world’s largest gas  condensate fields, with estimated reserves of more  than 1.2 billion tonnes of oil and condensate, was  discovered and initially operated in Soviet times, as  was Tengiz some 650km to the west. But coping with h the complexity and high pressures of both fields  was way beyond the technical and organisational  capabilities of the Soviet oil and gas industry.

Repairing the legacy of leaking pipes, abandoned  equipment and ecological devastation was one of the first tasks facing UK-based BG Group and Italy’s ENI,  the operators of the Karachaganak field, who brought Texaco (now absorbed into Chevron) and Russia’s  Lukoil into their consortium, before signing a 40-year production-sharing agreement with the government  in 1997.

Over the intervening 12 years, Karachaganak, like  Tengiz, has changed out of recognition to become  one of the most modern and productive oilfields in  the world. It delivered around 12 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas last year, more than six times the Soviet  peak level, and around 230,000 barrels a day of oil  and condensate. But after more than a decade of  heavy investment, the consortium operating the field has decided to take a breather and see how the global economy develops before pushing ahead with stage  three of the field’s developments

The initial $1 billion rehabilitation programme  got underway in 2000 after BG and ENI set up the  Karachaganak Petroleum Operating consortium  (KPO), in which the joint operators held 32.5 per cent each, while Chevron-Texaco took a 20 per cent stake  and Lukoil the remaining 15 per cent.

KPO remains the only one of the three Caspian  mega-project consortia to be entirely foreign-owned.  But the combination of a 65 per cent majority  holding in the hands of the joint operators, and  supportive minority stakeholders, appears to  have contributed to the smooth running of what  has become one of the most successful foreign  investments in the country.

Prior to the onset of the global crisis, KPO was  bracing itself for a government-backed bid by the  state energy corporation KMG for a minority stake  in the project, along the lines of KMG’s stakes in the TengizChevroil and Kashagan Consortia.

But faced with a severe banking and construction ^ sector crisis, and a collapsing oil price, the  government appears to have quietly backed away  from a policy that threatened to load KMG with  another heavy investment commitment it would  struggle to deliver. KPO also argued against the risk  of unsettling a proven successful operation, which  was generating tax revenues and creating skilled jobs for thousands of Kazakh citizens in an otherwise  backwater region of the country close to the  Russian border.

Important as its Kazakh operations are to BG,  senior management also indicated that developing  its deep offshore gas fields south of Brazil’s Rio de  Janeiro, and producing methane gas from coal in  Australia, were actually more attractive investment  propositions than producing more gas in landlocked  Kazakhstan in the global scheme of things.

BG alone claims to have invested $2.5 billion  in Karachaganak over the last eight years when  production of high-value gas condensate and gas  for sale to Russia’s Gazprom has risen on average by 18 per cent a year since 1998 to around 136,000 barrels of  oil equivalent a day. Export volumes of condensate are  expected to rise to 10.3 million tonnes a year after a  fourth ‘stabilisation train’ is completed by 2010.

Development is continuing at Karachaganak,  where up to 20 wells are being drilled in the first  stage of phase three of the field’s development.  This will improve oil recovery by increasing both  gas production for sale and re-injection. But the  consortium has called a halt for the time being on  the fuller implementation of stage three, which  entails construction of a $1.5 billion gas refinery and  development of gas sales to the domestic market and  possibly to China, as well as the traditional sales to  Russia’s Gazprom via Orenburg.

Successful completion of both the initial  rehabilitation of the existing field and the $5 billion  second stage has raised volumes and stabilised the  long-term production profile, thanks to powerful  sour-gas re-injection compressors and complex  gas treatment equipment the size of a small city.  Investment to date ensures efficient long-term  exploitation of the unique l,450m-deep column  of gas underground and the 200m-thick rim of oil  beneath it. Together the reservoirs hold an estimated -» l,200bcm of gas and more than 1 billion tonnes of gas condensate and oil.

At present, Karachaganak sends the bulk of its  gas to Gazprom’s processing plant at Orenburg, just  across the Russian frontier. This continues a practice  that began in Soviet times when Karachaganak was  essentially a subsidiary of the Orenburg complex,  with which it shares the same geological structure.  But in order to get a better return than what  would come from merely selling gas to the Russian  monopoly purchaser, KPO has built a 125mw gas-fired power station to satisfy Karachaganak’s own power  needs and a 165km pipeline to supply gas to the  nearest Kazakh town of Uralsk.

This helps to improve relations with the local  community and conforms with the government’s  overall strategy of reducing dependence on imported  gas. Since Soviet days, Kazakhstan has imported  gas from Russia to supply northern Kazakhstan,  and from Uzbekistan to supply gas to the populous  southern cities of Almaty and Shymkent, as well as to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Within a few months, southern Kazakhstan will  be able to tap into the lObcm of gas being carried  from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan across more  than 1,000km of southern Kazakhstan to the Chinese h border, 200km east of Almaty. The capacity of this  new southern export route to the east will triple to  30bcm in a few years. The route will also completely  transform the domestic gas supply situation for  southern Kazakhstan and open up a bottomless  market in China, ending Gazprom’s former  monopoly-buyer advantages.

Once growth returns to the global economy, KPO is  expected to give the green light to full implementation of stage three of Karachaganak. But in the meantime,  both shareholders and the government benefit from  this breathing space, as it allows shareholders to get  a return on their investment to date and boosts tax  revenue for the government.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Pages: 40-41.

NCOC and the Kashagan new deal 0

Posted on March 09, 2010 by KazCham

A KEY ELEMENT of the new Kashagan deal thrashed out by oil companies and the government last year is a greater role for the state oil and gas corporation KazMunaiGaz (KMG) after the ‘big four’ (ENI, Exxon-Mobil, Shell and Total) bowed to government demands for KMG to acquire parity in the new North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC), which has replaced the former AGIP-led KCO consortium.

Under the new arrangements, the oil majors agreed to allow their individual stakes to drop to 16.8 per cent as they sold shares to KMG, whose own share more than doubled from 8.3 per cent. This arrangement converts the ‘big four’ into the ‘big five’ and gives the Kazakh state both symbolically important parity status in the country’s greatest natural asset and equal status in decision-making.

At the same time, however, KMG assumed an equal share in the heavy financial burden of financing another five years of project development, with no return on the investment until 2013 and beyond.

But times have changed. Back in 1998 the predecessor of KMG was forced to sell the state’s original stake in Kashagan to Conoco-Phillips and Inpex for $500 million, precisely because the cash- strapped government needed money in the wake of the rouble crisis in neighbouring Russia. But this time China has come to the rescue, thanks to a $5 billion deal in April under which the China National  Petroleum Corporation will take a 49 per cent stake  in the 500 million barrel Mangistau Munaigas (MMG)  oil and gas field on western Kazakhstan alongside  KMG. Under this deal, China gets access to coveted oil and gas reserves and KMG gets development money for MMG and finance to retain its stake in Kashagan.

Campbell Keir, Shell’s representative in Kazakhstan, spelled out just what this burden entails when he  revealed that Shell, which has already invested more  than $3 billion in Kazakhstan, would be investing  some $900 million a year over the next few years,  most of it in Kashagan. But it is also developing the  Pearls field further south, together with the Oman  Oil Company and KMG, and other smaller projects.  Rather more cheerfully, he added that sharply falling steel and other input prices, thanks to the recession,  meant that it should be possible to contain or reduce  costs, which had spiralled at Kashagan and elsewhere  while the global economy was booming.

The new NCOC arrangement essentially boils down to a division of labour agreement between the ‘big five’. ENI will concentrate on bringing the Eskene processing complex on stream, Shell and Exxon will take a much more hands-on role in managing specific operational aspects of the project, together with KMG. Total, meanwhile, will concentrate on the logistical problems associated with building new export capacity and developing new export routes for the 1.5 million barrels a day of oil expected to flow from the field before the end of the decade. The French are particularly interested in the potential for exporting oil and gas south through Iran at some stage, politics permitting. But they are also working on the other large, new export route projects.

These include the KCTS export pipeline corridor between Eskene, Aktau and Kuryk; and building up tanker, and possibly sub-sea pipeline, routes across the Caspian to Baku and on to Ceyhan in Turkey.  Expansion of the CPC pipeline route through Russia is the other main priority – not only for Kashagan, but also for Chevron, BG and ENI, which already have rising oil and gas condensate production to export from their Tengiz and Karachaganak fields and badly need new capacity fast.

Exxon, meanwhile, is now in charge of drilling operations at the three smaller, and shallower, above-salt fields – Aktote, Kairan and Kalamkas – which are contained within the Kashagan concession area. Shell, which sees considerable synergies in  developing the Pearls field together with nearby  Kalamkas, is working closely with KMG on continuing developments at the main Kashagan project, while  ENI’s Agip, having been relieved of its sole operator  responsibilities, is now concentrating on developing  the complex on-shore facilities at Eskene and the  logistics base at Bautino.

The more focused and co-ordinated approach to developing Kashagan came just in time. Negotiations dragged on against the background of sharply rising global oil prices. But by the time the deal was officially announced, oil prices were plunging below $40 a barrel. The price collapse was partially recouped towards the middle of 2009 as oil prices recovered to around $50, but even at these levels all shareholders, including KMG, will be funding Kashagan and other Kazakh projects from much reduced global cash-flows.

The delayed start of production to 2012/2013  also means that the earning life of the 45-year  Production Sharing Agreement (PSA), which set out the tax and other parameters of the deal back in  1997, is eight years shorter than the oil companies  calculated when first oil was due to flow in 2005. In vain, the companies, especially Exxon, argued for a prolongation of the PSA timeframe, under which the entire project will revert to the state in 2042. The government refused.

Having been denied this extension, the best the oil companies can hope for now is that by 2013 global oil prices will have recovered and remain high for the next generation. The government is also -» hoping for such an outcome – because financing the  government’s long-term development plans, and  ambitions to turn Almaty into a regional financial  centre, are all heavily dependent on high and  rising oil and gas revenues from Kasha an – which,  ironically, is also the key to financing growth of a  more diversified economy.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Pages: 36-37.

Road to recovery 0

Posted on March 08, 2010 by KazCham

WHEN THE TWO most dynamic sectors of a relatively  small open economy nose-dive at the same time  the impact on overall economic activity can be very  depressing. That is what happened to the $100 billion Kazakh economy nearly two years ago when over- borrowed Kazakh banks became the first victim of  the global credit asphyxia which followed the US sub- prime mortgage crisis in August 2007.

Economic growth, which had been running at  around 8/9 per cent on an annualised basis over the  first eight months of the year, about average for the  last seven years, dropped like a stone. Cranes stopped swinging on construction sites and a ripple effect  spread right through the supply chain and into the  shops as tens of thousands of building workers were  suddenly laid off. Pressure on the rest of the economy rose as banks, suddenly cut off from foreign capital,  scrambled to recall loans to bank customers, or roll  them over at higher rates, as they struggled to repay  their own maturing foreign loans.

For the Kazakh economy as a whole, recourse to  cheap foreign borrowing by its entrepreneurial,  privately-owned banks in the boom years was a way  of monetising the expected future flow of funds from huge offshore oil and gas fields, such as Kashagan,  whose development is proving more expensive – and  taking longer – than originally expected. Cheap bank -loans for mortgages, large cars and consumer items  generally were a way for hitherto lowly-indebted  Kazakh consumers to access the higher standard of  living that seemed to be assured by the apparently unstoppable rise in the global price of Kazakhstan’s  main exports – oil, gas, minerals and grain.

But the second stage of the global economic  slowdown, which followed the collapse of Lehman  Brothers in September 2008, sparked off a precipitous fall in the traded prices of natural resources of  all kinds. What had begun 15 months earlier  as a construction crisis triggered off by a credit  crunch became a generalised slowdown as miners,  steelmakers and smelters mothballed marginal mines and/or cut output. Only the oil and gas producers  and the uranium miners continued ramping up  production, but even they were hit by lower prices  as oil dropped to just over $30 a barrel and copper to  below $3,000 a ton before starting to recover in the  second quarter of 2009.

The government reacted angrily to the first phase  of the crisis. Bankers said President Nazarbayev  castigated them as “greedy traitors” and, with the  benefit of hindsight, it soon became clear that  the banks had indeed financed far more palatial  mansions and luxury apartments than the number of oligarchs and aspiring middle class able to buy them- but too few flats that working people could afford  in the fast-growing cities. The short-lived craze for  buying top of the range SUVs and Porsches on credit  also looked over the top – especially as the Almaty  Metro project dropped even further behind schedule  and road construction generally failed to keep up  with the growth in traffic and air pollutions

But the real crunch in what is now an almost two  year long crisis came in February 2009, always a  bleak month in the heart of the Steppe winter, when  the government issued a blizzard of instructions –  and put the resources of the National Fund to work  shoring up bank balance sheets. The Fund, flush  with $24 billion set aside from oil revenues in the  fat years for just such a rainy day, transferred $10  billion to Samruk/Kazyna, the state holding company  and de facto sovereign wealth fund. Further billions  were shovelled into financing nearly completed  construction projects, converting luxury flats  into more affordable properties for civil servants,  especially in Astana, and replacing banks as financiers to some credit-starved construction companies.

But the clearest sign of a new determination to  tackle an economy heading for zero growth – or  worse – came with the appointment of Grigori  Marchenko as chairman of the National Bank. One  of his early acts, in February, was to decree an 18  per cent devaluation of the Tenge, with a 3 per cent  fluctuation margin either side of the new Tenge  parity of KZT150 to the US dollar. It was KZT120  before devaluation. This helped the export orientated minerals sector – but aggravated the foreign debt  burden of the banking system.

The most controversial move was virtual  nationalisation of the country’s biggest and hitherto  fastest-growing bank, BTA, as Samruk defenestrated  the bank’s former president, Mukhtar Ablyazov, and  injected $1.7 billion in return for a controlling 76 per cent stake. At the same time Samruk poured another h $3 billion into the two remaining ‘big three’ banks – Kazkommertzbank and Halyk Bank, in return for  a quarter of their equity, and warned creditors of  Alliance Bank that re-financing the smaller of the top six banks would only happen if they first agreed debt-n restructuring terms.

Samruk’s role in the bank re-capitalisation  underlined the accumulation of wealth and power  into its hands over the last three years or so. Set up  ostensibly to improve the standard of management  in state owned companies, critics see its hydra-like  control over the ‘commanding height’ of the Kazakh  economy – railways, telecoms, power distribution,  airlines and the state oil and gas corporation KMG – as a reincarnation of Soviet-style control over the  economy, a sort of Gosplan designed by McKinsey.

Inside the arched Astana headquarters of Samruk, h and the ‘Golden Horn’ building housing formerly  autonomous Kazyna, now merely the financial arm of the merged Samruk/Kazyna, planners and strategists  have swapped the obtuse language of Soviet  bureaucracy, which older staff grew up with, for the  equally impenetrable jargon of US-style management consultancy speak. Samruk, say some of its fiercest  internal critics, has become like the UK’s BBC – a system of outdoor relief for the children of the elite,  setter at analysing problems than deciding and  executing decisions.

One of the big questions over the future of the  economy is whether the rise of Samruk/Kazyna,  headed by Kairat Kelimbetov, points to ever greater  state control over the economy, and a more crypto- soviet future, or whether the accumulation of  economic and financial power in its hands –  Kazatomprom was the latest big corporation to come  under its control – marks a temporary expedient  until a new generation of political leaders emerges  md controls can be relaxed.

Whatever the outcome, which is of great interest to foreign investors, the macro-economic developments  of the last two or three years already point to the  possibility that a much stronger and better balanced  economy will emerge from this crisis.

The big developments now taking place include  major modernisation of the road, rail, port and  Dther transport infrastructure to create a shorter,  modern transit route between China and Europe and  an to Iran. At the same time Kazakhstan’s export  pipeline arrangements are being transformed with  new 3,000km-long oil and gas export pipelines from  the Caspian Sea to Western China, expansion of the  ZPC and other pipelines through Russia – and a new  southern energy transit route across the Caspian Sea  to Azerbaijan and Georgia. China is rapidly raising its  profile and weight in the economy alongside Russia,  Europe and the US. Next year Kazakhstan will become the world’s biggest producer of uranium. All these  themes, and more, are treated, in greater depth,  inside this edition.

Invest in Kazakhstan An official publication of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2009. Pages: 23-24.

The Samruk-Kazyna refinary projects 0

Posted on March 07, 2010 by KazCham

“Currently, «the Samruk-Kazyna» National Welfare Fund is reviewing 31 projects in various fields of Kazakhstan’s national economy. The total value of the projects exceeds 23 billion US dollars. Out of that amount approximately 11 billion US dollars account for petroleum refining and petrochemical industries, including refurbishment and upgrading projects for three oil refineries in Kazakhstan.

You probably know that a programme of these refineries’ enhancement has been developed in the framework of advanced hydrocarbon processing, which will improve the extent of future hydrocarbon conversion and improve the quality of the produced petrochemicals up to European standards and meet the country’s demands for high-octane gasoline and aircraft fuel.

Ongoing is the implementation of the development project to create the First Integrated Gas Chemical Facility that will produce baseline petrochemical products like polyethylene and polypropylene. We are also implementing a bitumen producing facility in Aktau at the plastic-making works. We are about to start operations to implement a project of aromatic compounds production at Atyrau Refinery. Some other production opportunities (including methanol facilities) are also being reviewed”.

From a welcome note of the managing director of Samruk Kazyna National Welfare Fund, B. Akchulakov


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