YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Friday that its investments in Armenia, mostly channeled into the private sector, reached a record high of $140 million last year.
The London-based institution supporting economic reforms in former Communist states said it financed 14 business projects implemented in various sectors of the Armenian economy.
The EBRD thus accounted for a considerable part of foreign direct investment (FDI) attracted by the South Caucasus country in 2015. The Armenian government recorded $263 million in FDI inflows in January-September.
In a statement circulated by its Yerevan office, the bank described the record-high figure as a “clear indication of both the investment opportunities in the country and strong demand for EBRD funding.” “The EBRD’s ability to attract increasing financial resources to Armenia is testament to the bankability of our clients and the overall investment climate in Armenia,” the head of the office, Mark Davis, was quoted as saying.
“While 2016 is likely to be a challenging year, I see a number of new opportunities in Armenia to add to our client base, and several deal prospects are already maturing,” added Davis. “Overall I am optimistic, especially about capital market development and the emergence of more private equity investment activity.”
The EBRD has invested a total of $1.13 billion in about 150 projects in Armenia ever since it began operating in the country in 1992. Nearly 90 percent of those investments have gone into the private sector, largely taking the form of minority stake purchases in local banks and other firms as well as foreign corporations setting up shop in the country.
As recently as on December 10, the EBRD paid just over $20 million for a 22.7 percent share in Armenia’s Inecobank. The deal was tied to Inecobank’s acquisition of ProCredit Bank Armenia. The two banks have thousands of small and medium-sized businesses among their clients. Their merger meant a further consolidation of the Armenian banking sector strongly supported by the EBRD.
Local commercial banks have absorbed nearly half of the EBRD’s total investments in Armenia. The EBRD has also invested in the country’s energy, agribusiness, mining and transport sections as well as public infrastructure.
On December 11, the EBRD announced the release of a $9 million loan for the construction of a solid waste landfill in Yerevan meeting European Union standards. The project also received about $18 million in funding from the EU.