Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (May 11-15)

Azerbaijan wants to improve economic cooperation level with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will hold a joint business forum with Azerbaijan in November 2015, Azerbaijani Minister of Economy and Industry Shahin Mustafayev said at the Azerbaijani-Saudi Arabian business forum in Baku.

"We have already reached a preliminary agreement on holding another business forum in Saudi Arabia in November," he said.

He said that the current business forum between the two countries is the second one.

"The first business forum was held in December 2013 as part of the intergovernmental commission," he said.

He said that the relations between the two countries are at a high level, particularly in the political sphere.
"Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Saudi Arabia in April 2015 can be called as the best index of relations between the countries," he said.

Mustafayev stressed the need to enhance the economic cooperation level up to the political one.

The minister regretted that the trade turnover between the countries does not correspond to the level of relations between the two countries.

"In this regard, it is important to expand relations between our entrepreneurs," he said.

"Azerbaijan is an attractive country for making investments. This is stipulated by a number of factors, including political and macroeconomic stability.

Mustafayev also stressed the need to establish a legal framework between the two countries.

"Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia can cooperate in the fields of agriculture, ICT, industry, alternative energy," he said. "In these areas we have concrete projects. We invite Saudi Arabian businessmen's cooperation."

He also stressed the possibilities for making joint investments in the third countries.

He said that the agreements reached as part of today's business forum will be the basis for signing the new agreements in Saudi Arabia in November 2015.

The business forum is supported by the Ministry of Economy and Industry of Azerbaijan. It brings together the representatives of over 100 companies of Saudi Arabia.

According to the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia as of 2014 amounted to $14.66 million, which is two times less compared to 2013. Some $14.5 million accounted for the imports of Saudi Arabian goods to Azerbaijan in 2014.

Moody's: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan have more opportunities to cope with "oil" crisis

Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are best placed among CIS countries to navigate the challenging macroeconomic conditions caused by oil price fall and economic situation in Russia, says Moody's Investors Service in its annual CIS Sovereign Outlook.

Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have large reserve buffers and are not involved in the conflict in Ukraine, Moody's said.

Countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will continue to be affected by oil price movements and Russian spillovers in 2015-2016.

Russia's recession continues to adversely affect the macroeconomic environment of other CIS countries, says Moody's.

"We expect that challenging conditions for CIS countries will continue to persist over the next 12 to 18 months," says Ernest Sergenti, an analyst at Moody's.

"Despite the recent recovery, oil prices remain at suppressed levels and continue to affect oil exporters," he said. "Meanwhile, the outlook for net energy importers remains bleak as they rely heavily on Russia for remittances, trade and finance. Other challenges some countries face include exposure to the Ukraine crisis and weak banking systems."

Although the CIS region's three net energy exporters - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia -- have low debt-to-GDP ratios and gross borrowing requirements, uncertainty around future oil prices and geopolitical concerns weigh on the credit quality of these countries, in Moody's view.

Within the CIS region, Moody's has a negative outlook on the ratings of four sovereigns (Armenia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine) and a stable outlook on three (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Moldova).

EBRD keeps economic growth forecast for Azerbaijan unchanged

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) kept the forecast of the economic growth in Azerbaijan in 2015-2016 at 1.5 percent, according to EBRD's updated report, the Regional Economic Prospects. The report was posted on EBRD website.

The GDP growth in Azerbaijan in 2014 was 2.8 percent, and in the first quarter of 2015 it stood at 5.3 percent.

EBRD said despite the Azerbaijani manat's devaluation on February 21 negatively affected the banking sector, it helped buttress the fiscal revenue impact of declining oil revenues and competitiveness.

The report also said that low oil prices negatively affected trade balance of Azerbaijan, and international reserves remained under pressure, declining by 14 percent month-on-month in March to the lowest level since late-2011.

The forecast of Azerbaijan's GDP growth is one of the highest in the Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

For instance, in Armenia, this year EBRD expects a negative GDP growth (1.5 percent) and an increase of one percent in 2016, in Moldova: -2.0 percent and 1.5 percent increase respectively, in Russia: -4.5 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively, in Ukraine: -7.5 percent and three percent respectively.

A negative growth of 2.5 percent is expected in Belarus in 2015, and a zero growth is expected in 2016.

EBRD expects the GDP growth in Georgia in 2015 to stand at 2.3 percent, and at 2.6 percent in 2016.

EBRD's analysts believe that a negative GDP growth of 3.3 percent in 2015 and an increase of 1.8 percent in 2016 are expected in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts a three percent economic growth in Azerbaijan in 2015.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a 0.6 percent growth this year, and a 2.5 percent growth in 2016.

Azerbaijan's government expects that this year the GDP growth will be 4.4 percent.

Azerbaijan-Greece DESFA deal: EU urges to comply with rules

All parties to commercial projects are first of all subject to litigation rules set up by the respective project contract, head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Malena Mard said.

She was commenting on the statement made by the new Greek government saying that the previously signed agreement on TAP gas pipeline is unprofitable.

SOCAR won a tender in December 2013 on the sale of the 66-percent stake in DESFA for 400 million euros. In November 2014, the European Commission started an investigation into the compliance of the deal on acquisition of a stake in DESFA with the EU's regulations.

Malena Mard said that the EU is a union built on the principle of the rule of law, all member states are obliged to comply with existing rules, norms and procedures that form the legal basis of the EU.

Mard further spoke on the issue of promotion of the agreement on the purchase of Greek DESFA gas transportation operator by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan.

"The status in the implementation of the DESFA purchase agreement is what is called compatibility examination of the agreement with existing market rules," she said. "This is a standard procedure and not directed against any of the parties involved in the contract."

Mard added that in general, good progress is observed on the EU's Strategic Energy partnership with Azerbaijan to improve European energy security and the diversification of energy supplies. "The commitment to implementing the Southern Gas Corridor is of utmost importance."

The Southern Gas Corridor will allow Europe to diversify its hydrocarbon supply sources and strengthen energy security and also will allow Azerbaijan to obtain a new market in Europe. Azerbaijani gas is designed to open the Southern Gas Corridor.

As part of ensuring Azerbaijani gas supply to the European market, the final investment decision was made on Dec.17, 2013 on the Stage 2 of the Shah Deniz offshore gas and condensate field's development. The gas produced at this field will first go to the European market (10 billion cubic meters), while six billion cubic meters of gas will be annually delivered to Turkey.

The contract for development of the Shah Deniz offshore field was signed on June 4, 1996. The field's reserve is estimated at 1.2 trillion cubic meters of gas and 240 million tonnes of condensate.

As part of the second stage of the field's development, gas will be exported to Turkey and European markets by expanding the South Caucasus gas pipeline and the construction of Trans-Anatolian (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic (TAP) gas pipelines.

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