On the path of liberal democratic development, Georgia shows remarkable improvement in international rankings, measuring 16th in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking out of 190 countries, 13th in the Economic Freedom Index, published by The Heritage Foundation and 59th out of 139 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index ranked by the Global Economic Forum. Even though significant improvements have been made on most of the indicators detailed analysis shows areas that still require additional reforms. For example The Heritage Foundation report reads that “with monetary stability and the overall soundness of fiscal health relatively well-maintained, Georgia has enjoyed macroeconomic resilience. Nonetheless, deeper and more rapid institutional reforms to enhance judicial independence and effectiveness remain critical to ensuring further dynamic and lasting economic development,” Areas such as Resolving Insolvency measured by the World Bank remains underdeveloped and requires additional attention from the Government.
The America Georgia Business Council (AGBC) hosted its 19th Annual Conference in Washington, DC on Dec 7th 2016. The conference venue was generously donated by the premier global law firm, Baker & McKenzie.
The conference marked a turning point in Georgia's development with the focus of the conference principally being spent on private sector development and Georgia's role as an ever more important global transit hub.
Participants heard from panelists including representatives of the Georgian and US government's, experts from International Financial Institutions (IMF and OPIC), and representatives of private industry. Guests Keynote address were given by:
- Bruce Andrew, US Deputy Secretary of Commerce
- Levan Davitashvili, Georgian Ministry of Agriculture
- Bridget Brink, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
- Judith Pryo, Vice President of External Affairs of OPIC
Additionally, two important project announcements were made. Famed Georgian Doctor, Dimitri Tvildiani and Dr. Bill Lang of Inova Health, announced a recently signed MOU to develop a world class oncology and cardiology clinic to be named the 'American Hospital Tbilisi.' Ms. Stephanie Komsa, the COO of Gazelle Finance, announced a new $26mm SME focused fund to enhance access to capital to rapidly growing Georgian businesses.
Some of the presentations shown at the conference have been made available below:
The AGBC hosted its first 'Georgia and Evolving Dynamics of the Silk Road' regional forum at the offices of Baker & McKenzie in Washington, DC.
A key note address and update on Georgia's monetary policy was provided by the President of the National Bank of Georgia, Mr. Koba Gvenetadze. He noted the strength of Georgia's banks in withstanding the currency devaluation and the continued support and confidence by citizens of Georgia in their banking system (which at above 70% is among the highest in the world).
The strong turnout for the event was a signal of the interest by stakeholders from the US, EU, China, Central Asian sovereign actors, and private enterprise in the success of the New Silk Road.
The Honorable Enders Wimbush, Founder of the AGBC, Dr. Fred Starr of the Central Asian Caucuses Institute at John Hopkins University, and Ambassador Richard Norland participated in a panel discussion on the evolving geopolitical situation in the silk-road.
Mr. Wimbush articulated the opportunities and threats presented by Russia's economic, political and cultural decline. He noted the enhanced threat from Russia's posture to its neighbors based upon its dependency on its military as the last competent and competitive institution for achieving State objectives.
Dr. Starr suggested that new trade routes - driven by China's population decline and Pakistan, Bangladesh and India's population explosion into the mid century - will provide opportunities for not only an East - West trade, but also a North - South trade on the Silk Road.
Dr. Starr noted that Iran represents a direct competitor as a transit route to Georgia and that Georgia cannot afford to make any missteps in developing both its hard and soft infrastructure.
The second panel focused on improvements and opportunities in development of hard infrastructure. The panel was moderated by Mr. Kenneth Angell of the US OverSeas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
Mr. Greg Saunders of BP spoke about the new natural gas pipeline system connecting Azerbaijan to Europe via Georgia and Turkey. He explained the improvements made to the upgraded South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), and the new Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP) which will connect Shah-Deniz field in Azerbaijan to consumers in Italy and other European countries. The project is bringing the largets foreign direct investments to Georgia in the amount of $2 billion USD. Mr. Saunders also emphasized the fact that Georgia is already a transit country for million barrels of oil not only from Azerbaijan, but also from Turkmenistan.
Mr. Joseph Dolidze, the principal of the Pace Group, one of the region' largest cargo handlers, terminal operators and freight forwarders, spoke about the increased capacity for handling of dry and bulk cargoes at Poti Port. Mr. Dolidze discussed development of the new deep water port terminal facility in Poti, with additional storage facilities servicing clients in Central Asia and Caucasus. He thanked Mr. Kenneth Angel and OPIC team for their financial support of the expansion project of the new terminal, with investments from Pace and OPIC totaling $95 million.
Ms. Randee Day, a Maritime expert of the boutique consultancy firm Day & Partners, spoke about Georgia's potential role as a Maritime hub. She noted that Georgia has a historical role in providing excellent and well regarded sea-farers and officers and that this could provide a useful future source of employment in the country. Additionally, she added that the expansion of the Poti Port and the development of the deep-water container port at Anaklia would be game changers for the countries capacity to take larger vessels which would have tangential effects in creating further wealth and job growth in ancillary industries (accounting, hospitality, cargo handling, inland infrastructure and logistics).
Ms. Day noted that Georgia's three major challenges to developing a world-class shipping destination such as Oslo, Hamburg, Dubai, or Singapore were: lack of local bank financing available for shipping, the lack of programs to attract vessel management companies and ship owners to become residents or relocate their businesses in Georgia, and the lack of both suitable capital markets infrastructure (the Oslo and Singapore exchanges are major hubs for the registration of medium size publicly listed shipping companies) and ease of access from other international shipping destinations (there are no direct links to Georgia from London, New York, Singapore, Hamburg, or Oslo).
The evening ended with a farewell toast and candid remarks from Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze while the crowd enjoyed Georgian wine and a view of the White House.
The AGBC would like to again give a special thanks to Baker & McKenzie for providing the venue for the event.
AGBC Annual Conference
Driving FDI, Supporting Entrepreneurs
The Honorable Nicholas Berliner, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the United States in Georgia
The AGBC was very proud to host its 18th Annual Conference. For nearly 20 years the mission of the AGBC has been to drive bi-lateral trade and investment and to improve the business environment in Georgia. This year's conference, which included two OPIC loan signings, and the First Annual Grow Georgia Competition, was a major milestone in the AGBC's efforts to identify attractive business opportunities for quality US investments.
Despite regional instability and headwinds across emerging markets, Georgian business leaders continue to drive growth through a combination of discipline, best practices, and innovation.
The AGBC couldn't be happier than to highlight GMT Group and the Wissol Petroleum Group, two leading businesses that exemplify those virtues and that have received financing from the Overseas Investment Corporation of the United States (OPIC).
Both companies conducted their loan signings with the Honorable Mildred Callear, Vice President for Financial and Portfolio Management of OPIC. Mr. Kenneth Angell, Managing Director for SMEF of OPIC was on present as well for the ceremony.
The Honorable Mildred Callear of OPIC with Mr. George Tavadze, President of GMT Group.
GMT Group: GMT Group signed a $18 million loan with OPIC for the construction of the Moxy Hotel, to be located in a prime location in Tbilisi near the river Mtkvari. The Moxy brand is a new budget segment for Marriott and Marriott international has chosen Tbilisi, and GMT as its first location and developer partner, respectively, to roll out the new brand. The financing will enable the completion of separate office space and a new restaurant.
Wissol Petroleum Group: Wissol Petroleum Group, through its subsidiary D&B Georgia signed a loan for $10.6 million USD with OPIC for the expansion of Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Georgia. Wissol Group has opened out multiple Wendy's and Dunkin' Donuts locations throughout Tbilisi; rather than just replicating existing models in other market's Wissol Group has implemented innovative practices within their stores to drive revenue per square foot, including kids play areas and frosty stations that appeal to birthday parties and other special occasions. These models are now being reviewed by Dunkin' Donuts and Wendy's in the US for their possible replication in other markets, an exciting endorsement of Georgian capacity for business innovation in existing international brands.
The AGBC was thrilled to announce the winners of the First Annual AGBC "Grow Georgia Business Plan Competition"
The winners in order were:
First Place “Gulf” Prize - $5000 - RESERVED.GE
Second Place “Georgian American Alloys” Prize - $3000 - NEBULA LLC
Third Place “BP” Prize - $2000 - LTD Promo Bike
Runners Up – “SC Fuels” and “GMT” Prizes- $1000 (each) - Bulberry and Gopher
The Council will be sending out further information from the winners and runners up including their business plans and contact details before the end of the year.
- Founder of Mercedes Fashion Week, Sophia Tchkonia-
In addition to the exciting announcements regarding OPIC and the Grow Georgia Competition, the AGBC was the first trade / business council to showcase Georgian fashion as a leading industry in Georgia. The fashion panel, moderated by Lisa Kaestner, Manager in Europe and Eurasia, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, World Bank Group, had two high profile participants from the world of Georgian fashion.
Maka Kvitsiani, Founder of Dalood Group
Sophia Tchkonia, Founder of Mercedes Fashion Week
Since the conference, Georgia has received substantial media coverage for Mercedes Fashion Week Tbilisi. Some highlights are available below:
From Vogue: Step off, Gucci fur-lined loafers! Italian shoe designers—and frankly, shoe designers the world over—may want to glance nervously over their shoulders: Some of the coolest, most skillfully crafted footwear we’ve seen recently is coming straight out of Georgia. Take it from what was on the runways of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi Spring 2016. The weekend was a testament to the flourishing fashion scene in and around the post-Soviet republic, and almost every designer who showed also created their own shoes.
Hon. Keti Bochorishvili, Deputy Minister of Economy, Government of Georgia
Ms. Bochorishvili, a longtime friend of the AGBC and the bi-lateral business community, gave a keynote address to the conference participants about Georgia's business climate and the direction of Georgia's development.
- OPIC's Kenneth Angell with Archil Gachechiladze of Bank of Georgia -
The AGBC hosted its first ever Finance and Banking panel, moderated by Ms. Randee Day, CEO of Day & Partners, LLC. The panel included notable industry leaders including:
Archil Gachechiladze, Deputy CEO, Bank of Georgia
Giorgi Akhalaia, Commercial Director, Smartex
Davit Tsiklauri, Deputy CEO, TBC
The participants discussed everything from currency fluctuations, to central banking policy, to the potential for Georgia to develop capital markets including trading desks for commodities and sovereign debt in the Eurasian region.
Kenneth Angell moderated a panel on Healthcare and Opportunities for investment in both the hospital and pharmaceutical sector. Several participants, including Ms. Ani Karalashvili, CEO of Emedica LLC and Mr. Enrico Beridze and Mr. Misha Abramidze of ABC Pharmaceuticals engaged in a lively discussion on the market place and government regulations.
June 12, 2015
Tbilisi Marriott Hotel
Schulze Global Investments launches $100 million investment fund in Georgia along with other international institutional investors
On June 12 at 2:00pm at the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, Schulze Global Investments Limited (“Schulze Global”) will be hosting a Signing Ceremony to inaugurate a new private equity fund under the name Caucasus Clean Energy Fund I (“CCEF” or the “Fund”). The other two participants in the ceremony are the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (“GEEREF”) and Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank AG, the Development Bank of Austria (“OeEB”). GEEREF and OeEB are to become the two major institutional investors of the Fund, providing anchor commitments of $13m and $7m, respectively. The Fund will commence its actual investment activities in Georgia in the coming months.
CCEF will be focused on making equity investments into small and medium-sized hydropower plants exclusively in Georgia. Schulze Global believes that the development of many small and medium-sized hydropower plants has been slower than expected due to the fact that developers have insufficient equity available to proceed with attractive projects. Schulze Global seeks to solve this problem through CCEF making equity available to developers and thereby helping to unlock the potential of Georgia’s small and medium-sized hydropower plants.
CCEF will target projects in the range of 10-20 MW, focusing on introducing international best practices in respect of the construction and operation of plants, as well as their environmental and social management. It will also carefully consider the interests of local residents and all interested parties during the planning and implementation phases of its projects.
Schulze Global is an American private investment firm focused on the world’s most dynamic frontier. Schulze Global manages several hundred million dollars of investments across various markets in Asia, Latin America, and Africa and works in partnership with some of the world’s most prestigious institutional investors.
Mr. Gabriel Schulze, the Founder and CEO of Schulze Global, stated: “Georgia has tremendous hydropower potential and, with the right strategy, could become a clean energy hub for the entire Caucasus region. Schulze Global looks forward to participating in Georgia’s growth through the Caucasus Clean Energy Fund I.” Mr. Schulze went on to explain that “Schulze Global’s approach seeks to achieve high financial returns while at the same time making sure that our investments are having a tangible positive impact. When measuring that impact, we look at various factors: improving the governance of the companies in which we are investing; creating local employment opportunities; having a positive social and environmental impact; and serving as a strategic bridge between the United States and the frontier markets in which we operate. Here in Georgia we see an opportunity to achieve impact in virtually all of these areas.”
Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank AG (OeEB) has been operating as the Development Bank of Austria since March 2008. It specializes in the provision of long-term finance, including loans and private equity, for the implementation of private sector projects in developing countries which create sustainable development. Additionally, OeEB provides technical assistance, which can be used to enhance the developmental impact of projects. OeEB puts special emphasize on investing in renewable energy.
GEEREF is an innovative Fund of Funds investing in specialist private equity funds focusing on small and medium-sized renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in emerging markets. GEEREF was launched in 2008 with public sector seed capital from the European Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Norway, and has recently successfully completed its fundraising from private sector investors. GEEREF is advised by the European Investment Bank Group.
The European Investment Bank (“EIB”) Group is among the largest providers of finance for climate action, in pursuit of the European Union’s goal of low-carbon and climate resilient growth. In 2014 alone, the EIB invested EUR 19.1 billion in climate action projects worldwide, and this figure reaches over EUR 90 billion for the last five years (2010-2014). The EIB opened a Regional Representation Office for the Southern Caucasus in Tbilisi on April 30, 2015, to enhance its support for the public and private sectors and strengthen relations with promoters, partner banks and other international financial institutions in the Caucasus region. EIB signed lending commitments have reached EUR 533 million in Georgia to-date.
Note: This partnership will be partly financed with the financial assistance of the European Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Norway. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Norway.
Contact person at Schulze – Lika Kapanadze (Public Relations Consutlant)
// Tel: 595 11 70 03
The Embassy of Georgia hosted a Georgian Independence Day Celebration on June 2nd, 2015 at the Andrew W. Mellon auditorium in Washington, DC.
Hundreds of people showed up for the festivities which included traditional Georgian music, live jazz, and key note addresses from the US Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael T. Flynn.
The IMF mission expects the 2014 economic growth to reach 5%. This growth is supported by stronger consumption, increased private investment and higher exports (largely due to renewed trade relations to Russia). 5% growth rate is projected for 2015 as well. The mission reports that inflation remains low below the 6% target. The account deficit is expected to decline in 2015 with fiscal consolidation, greater exchange rate flexibility, reforms improving competitiveness, and the new opportunities given by the free trade agreement with the EU. To read the full IMF Report, Click Here.
Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency was released on October 29, 2014. Doing Business focuses on regulations that affect domestic small and medium-size enterprises, operating in the largest city of an economy, across 10 areas. Out of 189 countries Georgia is the 15th in the ease of doing business ranking. Read the Full Doing Business 2015 Report Here.
We are delighted to welcome Saga and Zami Group as new members of the America Georgia Business Council. SAGA is a chain offering HVAC systems as well as installation and maintenance services in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi. The company sources a wide variety of specialized systems from manufacturers in forty different countries. Zami Group is a holding company that owns a number of well-established businesses in Georgia such as Gap, Banana Republic, Zara, etc.