Belarus flirts with foreign investors in bid to boost international trade

By bne IntelliNews November 17, 2014

Henry Kirby in London -

 

Belarus’ credentials as a foreign investment destination were laid out by a delegation of government officials and bankers at the “Belarus Investment Forum” in London on November 14.

Attempts to grow its presence on the international capital market, a tax regime attractive to foreign investors and its impressive fiscal stability were offered up as proof that Belarus is making efforts to shake off its reputation as an inaccessible market to foreign investors.

Deputy Finance Minister Maxim Ermolovich described the country’s new tax policy – to be implemented within two years – as, “a significant advance for doing business in Belarus.”

“As investors coming to Belarus, you will not come across any exhortative taxes. There will be special tax regimes for newly-created companies, and free economic zones, such as in high-tech parks,” he said.

Ermolovich also described Belarus’ motivation behind its forthcoming $1.8bn, 10-year Eurobond issuances in 2015 ($1bn) and 2018 ($800m): “We would like to invite international investment in the debt instruments of Belarus, not out of a dire need – the situation with external debt is very comfortable – but to establish a presence on the market.”

Indeed, Belarus’ current external government debt as a percentage of GDP is only 37%, according to the Belarusian National Bank. In contrast, the UK’s currently stands at 90.6%.

The most surprising announcement of the forum was that Belarus could hold international IPOs of large state-run companies in the near future – a move that has been mooted on several occasions but has never come to fruition. “We have discussed listings on the London Stock Exchange of several large companies; a bank and several machine-tool making enterprises, which are almost ready,” said Minister of Economy Nikolai Snopkov.

 “There is not a single enterprise, as our president says, that we are not prepared to sell. We are thoroughly preparing for when the best time comes,” he added.

 

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