Investor.ge provides a brief update on investments and changes in government policy that could impact the business environment. The information in this issue was taken from agenda.ge, a government-supported website, and other sources.
Chinese Company Buys 75 Percent of Free Trade Zone
The Georgian government and a Chinese company have signed a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 75 percent of the ownership shares of the Free Trade Zone in Poti, Georgia, agenda.ge reported on 16 January.
The company, CEFC China Energy Company Limited, is a leading international company listed on the Fortune Global 500 list, gov.ge, the Georgian government's official website, reported.
The deal is part of China's One Belt, One Road project, the website said, adding the memorandum was signed by Economy Minister Giorgi Gakharia and Zang Jianjun, the CEO of China Energy Company Limited.
The agreement is part of an effort "to encourage the realization of the potential of the New Silk Road."
CEFC China Energy Company Limited plans to develop the Poti Free Industrial Zone by "sharing the best practices of China's developed industrial zones and attracting investments in the development of processing, modern technology, warehouse management, and logistics," the report said.
EU visa waiver for Georgia
The European Parliament voted to waive visa requirements for Georgian citizens travling to the Schengen area. The new rules are slated to go into effect by the end of March and will simplify traveling for business and tourism. See page 15 for a fuller report.
Turkmen Oil Returns to Georgia
Georgia and Turkmenistan have signed a three-year deal for the transportation of Turkmen oil via Georgia, agenda.ge reported on January 13. The $22-million agreement calls for 1.5 million tons of oil to be transported through Georgia every year, according to the report.
New Airport Opens in Racha
Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili opened Georgia's newest airport in Ambrolauri, Racha, in western Georgia, agenda.ge reported on January 14.
External Trade Up 21 percent in 2016
Georgia traded goods worth $11.9 billion in 2016, up 21 percent from the previous year, according to official statistics. The value of exports dropped two percent and imports increased 28 percent, the report stated.
Gulf Air to Launch New Tbilisi Flights
Bahrain's Gulf Air has announced new direct flights to Tbilisi, agenda.ge reported on 21 January, citing the air company's statement.
The new, three-times weekly flights will start in the summer.
Over Six Million Tourists in 2016
Over six million foreign visitors came to Georgia in 2016, according to official statistics. Over two million people spent more than 24 hours in the country, a 19 percent increase from 2015. The highest number of visitors came from Azerbaijan -1,523,075, a 9.3 percent increase, followed by Armenia, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine.
The number of visitors from European countries also increased in 2016: according to official statistics, there were 24 percent more visitors from Latvia, 16 percent more from Lithuania, 15 percent more from Czech Republic, 12 percent more from Bulgaria and 11 percent more from Germany.
There was exponential growth in the number of tourists from several other countries, including Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Oman and China, agenda.ge reported, citing the Georgian National Tourism Agency.
National Bank Launches Loan Calculator
The National Bank of Georgia has created a calculator to help people and businesses compare loan terms in lari, the national currency, and US dollars, agenda.ge reported on February 3.
The initiative is an effort to support the government's larization program, which allows those who took out bank loans in dollars before January 2015 - and put up real estate as collateral - to convert their dollar loan to lari, the report said.
The calculator is available on the National Bank of Georgia website, www.nbg.gov.ge.
Bank of Georgia Acquires ProCredit Bank's SME portfolio
Bank of Georgia has purchased ProCredit Bank Georgia's small and medium sized segments portfolio, agenda.ge reported on February 6. The report noted the deal was signed in December 2016. The agreement will add a net value of 120 million lari (about $45 million) in loans to Bank of Georgia's retail banking loan portfolio, according to agenda.ge.
Four Million Bottles of Georgian Wine to 26 Countries
Georgia exported 4.3 million bottles of Georgian wine to 26 countries in January, agenda.ge reported, citing official statistics. Sales totaled $8.8 million, the report said.
January sales were a 141 percent increase in revenue compared to the same month in 2016; the volume of exports increased by 184 percent, according to the Georgian National Wine Agency.
The top five countries that imported Georgian wine in January 2017 were: Russia - 2,861,471 bottles;Ukraine - 402,858 bottles; China - 372,440 bottles; Poland - 156,302 bottles; and Kazakhstan - 106,284 bottles. Exports also increased to 11 other countries, according to the report: China - 725 percent (372,440 bottles); Estonia - 250 percent (48,432 bottles); Russia - 198 percent (2,861,471 bottles); Kyrgyzstan - 186 percent (38,700 bottles); Kazakhstan - 164 percent (106,284 bottles); United Kingdom - 113 percent (14,328 bottles); Ukraine - 102 percent (402,858 bottles); United States - 100 percent (32,940 bottles); Latvia - 84 percent (61,128 bottles); Poland - 37 percent (156,302 bottles); and Lithuania - 21 percent (54,228 bottles).
Georgian brandy exports were also up by 59 percent, compared to the same period last year. Agenda.ge reported that Georgia has sold $21.7 million worth of alcoholic beverages in January 2017, including wine, brandy, chacha and others - a 229 percent y/y increase.