02.02.2016

Activity of Chinese companies in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Azerbaijan and Eastern Europe

Important Notice:

We note that the views expressed below are preliminary and may require further research and analysis. We also note that below information shall not be considered as a legal advice, and is provided as a general overview of business activity from the standpoint of legal consultant.   

1. BACKGROUND:

Below we provide general information about business activity of Chinese companies in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Azerbaijan and Eastern Europe over the last five years. Information is provided based on experience of GRATA International (“GRATA”) and Arzinger & Partners (“Arzinger”), and also on public sources, media and official reports of state authorities.

Our analysis covers 7 countries, including (in alphabetical order):

-  Azerbaijan;

-  Belarus;

-  Czech Republic;

-  Kazakhstan;

-  Kyrgyzstan;

-  Tajikistan;

-  Uzbekistan.

jointly referred to as the “Countries”.

To evaluate the presence of Chinese companies in each of the Countries, as well as the nature and perspectives of such presence, representatives of GRATA and Arzinger in each of the Countries were requested to respond to the following questions:

  1. Do you see that the presence of Chinese companies is growing in your country over the last 5 years?
  2. What are the areas there Chinese companies are most active? Please choose one or several options below:

- Construction and Infrastructure;

- Natural Resources;

- Telecoms;

- Energy and Transportation;

- Production and Trade;

- Banking and Finance.

  1. What is the form of ownership of Chinese companies present at your market? Are these mostly state-owned or private companies?
  2. What is the most popular form of financing of projects by Chinese companies? Loans? Direct Investments? Public-private partnership?
  3. How welcomed are Chinese companies general by state authorities and business? Any specific preferences / incentives / other advantages such as visa free regime etc.?

Below we provide the summary of our findings. Responses to the questions on country-by-country basis are provided in Annex I to this document.

 

2. SUMMARY

2.1. Significant increase of presence and investments

Basically, all respondents see significant increase of activity of Chinese companies in all of the Countries over the last five years. This is evidenced not only by growing number of projects realized by or with participation of Chinese companies, but also by growing cooperation between the governments of the Countries and China. Such cooperation is being formulized by signing of memorandums and agreements for mutual cooperation and encouragement of investments.

Such “active” position of governments of the Countries could be explained by the fact that in a situation there “traditional” investment sources (government investments, financing by local and international banks) may no longer be fully available due to economic fluctuations (like, for example, in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan), governments may look for alternative investment sources such as “tied loans” from Chinese banks for construction of infrastructural facilities etc.

2.2. Areas of activity

All respondents confirmed that Chinese companies are generally very active in the areas of Construction & Infrastructure, Natural Resources, Energy, Transportation and Telecoms. The activity of Chinese banks in the area of Banking & Finance is also normally relating to financing of the projects in one of these areas.

As regards to Production & Trade, this area of activity cannot be considered as “hot” in comparison with other areas (only for Czech Republic some specific projects were mentioned). At the same time, taking into consideration the general strategy on relocation of production facilities from Central China to abroad, this area may also grow, in particular, with regard to production of steel and construction materials in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

2.3. Both private and state-owned companies

All respondents confirm that both private and state-owned Chinese companies are active at the markets of the Countries. We may conclude, however, that taking into consideration the volume of investments, state-owned companies are generally more active in the Countries, than private.

2.4. Type of financing

Loans and direct investments are two most popular forms of financing, depending on the type of project.

Chinese companies are also not really active in PPP projects. The most popular type of financing from Chinese companies are “tied loans” provided by Chinese banks for construction or acquisition (with further reconstruction) of major infrastructural or subsoil facilities.

Normally, such financing is provided based on two key conditions – mandatory involvement of Chinese contractors to a project and state guarantees of return of financing.

2.5. State support

Chinese companies are generally welcomed in all Countries, however, this could be considered rather as a part of general support of activity of foreign companies, than as a policy of support of Chinese companies specifically. At the same time, as mentioned above, governments of all Countries are quite active in their work with the Chinese government aimed at establishment of proper legal framework for effective cooperation.

Chinese nationals normally do not enjoy visa free regime (except for Belarus for a very limited time period).

For more detailed information about the Chinese presence in each of the countries and some specific projects realized in each Country please refer to Annex I.

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We hope the above information is helpful. For any specific queries please contact:

 

Yerzhan Yessimkhanov

Partner, GRATA International

yyessimkhanov@gratanet.com

Yerzhan Yessimkhanov

Partner, Head of Telecommunication & Transport, Construction & Infrastructure Department