Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (Nov. 14-18)

Azerbaijan to expand list of mortgage products

The Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund will expand the list of mortgage products, Angela Prigozhina, the World Bank (WB) private and financial development sector leader, said.

“We continue to cooperate with our partners in Azerbaijan, including with the Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund, the Finance Ministry and the regulator [Financial Markets Supervision Chamber] in order to develop the market of mortgage financing,” she said.

Prigozhina added that the changed economic environment requires development of new products of the mortgage fund itself.

“In this regard, we will continue to work in the coming year to develop new products of the mortgage fund, strengthen the system of risk management, funding, as well as expansion of funding sources of the mortgage market,” she said.

Currently, the Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund offers two products: social and commercial mortgages, with the highest annual interest rates of 4 and 8 percent, respectively.

SOCAR eyes construction of oil terminal in Benin

Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR is considering the possibility of building an oil terminal in the city of Cotonou of Benin, as well as the implementation of a number of infrastructure projects in West African countries, SOCAR said in a message.

The Azerbaijani delegation led by the country’s Energy Minister Natig Aliyev visited Burkina Faso and Benin at the invitation of these countries’ governments, according to the message.

During the meetings, the sides discussed issues of establishing relations between the fuel and energy complex of Azerbaijan and West African countries, as well as ensuring mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

“The delegation, which also includes SOCAR Vice-President for Investments and Marketing Elshad Nasirov, Chairman of Azerikimya production union Mukhtar Babayev and Director of SOCAR Trading Arzu Azimov, met with the President of Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, during which the parties outlined the importance of development of bilateral relations,” said the message.

During a meeting with Prime Minister of Burkina Faso Paul Kaba Thieba, the parties discussed issues of cooperation between SOCAR and SONABHY (state oil company of Burkina Faso), concrete joint projects, the supply of oil products to Burkina Faso, as well as the construction of SOCAR’s terminal in the port of Cotonou in Benin and implementation of several other infrastructure projects, according to the message.

The Azerbaijani delegation also plans to hold meetings in the Cotonou with minister of energy, water resources and mining, minister of finance, foreign minister, as well as the management of Benin’s state oil company SONACOP (Société Nationale de Commercialisation des Produits Pétroliers).

The message said also that the visit will allow expanding prospects of supplies of Azerbaijani oil and oil products to West African markets, implementing energy projects, strengthening political authority of Azerbaijan in the region and intensifying SOCAR’s commercial activity.

Azerbaijan should create agency on work with foreign investors

American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham) has offered to establish a single agency in the country (similar to or within the ASAN Service) for all operational interactions between foreign investors and governmental authorities.

This was reflected in the 6th edition of the document (White Paper) called “Observations and Recommendations for Improving Azerbaijan's Business Climate” prepared and presented to the Office of the President of Azerbaijan.

“Services of this agency would be available to all foreign investors whose investment in Azerbaijan exceeds a certain threshold,” said the document. “Ideally, the agency would significantly reduce routine bureaucracy and make Azerbaijan a much easier place to do business with.”

In order to make sure that this agency provides the necessary protection to the foreign investors, it should report directly to the president of Azerbaijan, according to the document.

“The government of Azerbaijan has had strong success in attracting foreign direct investment into the oil and gas sector of economy,” reads the document. “As we noted earlier, we believe that there is a need to generate similar success in the non-oil and gas sectors as well.”

As competition for foreign direct investment in the region increases, Azerbaijan should take the steps to outperform its neighbors in becoming the most attractive market for the foreign investments, according to the document.

“A special economic court could be established, dealing specifically with foreign investors,” the document noted.

Another important measure could be setting a “guaranteed” tax regime (similar to PSA's) for foreign investors in Azerbaijan, AmCham said.

“In other words, the government will commit not to increase tax rates for investors for a specific period (for long term investments) or throughout the entire duration of the project (for shorter term investments),” the document said.

The White Paper reflects collective view of AmCham members on changes ensuring strength of business environment and ultimately, the country.

AmCham has been working in Azerbaijan since 1996 and currently consists of 270 companies representing more than 80 percent of foreign investments in the country.

Kuwaitis interested in Azerbaijan’s real estate market

Kuwaiti investors show interest in the real estate market of Azerbaijan, the country’s Ambassador to Kuwait Elkhan Gahraman said in an interview with Trend.

Investors of Kuwait already invest in Azerbaijan’s economy and chose agriculture and favorable recreational tourist areas as priority directions, he said.

The diplomat added that businessmen of Kuwait launched their first investment projects in Azerbaijan’s Gabala, Ismayilli, Guba and Gusar districts.

The ambassador said that the tourism potential of Azerbaijan plays an important role for the development of economic relations between the two countries.

"Kuwaitis like to make tourist trips and according to the statistics of recent years, they spend an average of about $10 billion during the year on such trips," the ambassador noted. "In many cases, during such trips, Kuwaitis explore new business opportunities, buy luxury apartments, houses and land lots abroad."

"Kuwaitis arriving in Azerbaijan also show interest in the local real estate market," he added. "In addition, they show great interest in creation of farms, renting of large areas for breeding cattle in Azerbaijan."

Speaking about trade relations between the two countries, the ambassador noted that Kuwait already imports agricultural products from Azerbaijan.

In particular, on the basis of a contract with the Azerbaijani juice plant in Gabala district, the Kuwait Azeri Trading Establishment Company buys products of this enterprise for their delivery to the Kuwaiti market, he said.

Currently, the work is underway to expand the list of names of the goods imported from Azerbaijan to Kuwait, Gahraman said.

The diplomat expressed hope that the opening of direct flights between Azerbaijan and Kuwait will lead to a significant increase in trade relations between the two states.

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