Foothold in Armenia

The Moscow Times
Thursday, Mar. 25, 2004. Page 6
Business in Brief

Foothold in Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Russia’s state-owned Vneshtorgbank on Wednesday
bought 70 percent of the shares in a major Armenian bank, officials said.

Andrei Kostin, board chairman of Vneshtorgbank, said that the purchase of a
controlling stake in Armenia’s Armsberbank marked the Russian bank’s first
acquisition of another bank in the former Soviet Union.

He called it recognition of Armenia’s political and economic stability.

Russian state-owned companies have increasingly tightened their foothold in
this ex-Soviet republic. Unified Energy Systems assumed financial control of
Armenia’s only nuclear plant last year in a deal that Armenia sought to get
out from under massive energy debts to Russian fuel suppliers.

Armenia also depends on Gazprom for natural gas supplies, and Russian
businesses are reportedly eyeing other sectors of the Armenian economy.

Kostin said VTB planned to use its investment to provide “the whole spectrum
of services to Russian companies operating in Armenia.”

Armsberbank was created in 1923 and privatized in 2001. Two other Armenian
banks, Areksimbank and Yunibank, also have Russian investors.