Armenia launching charm offensive in City to attract UK investment

This is Money, UK
Oct 28 2023

Armenia is launching a charm offensive in the City to attract UK investment.

The country's economy minister and diplomats held meetings this week with major banks in the City as it looks to pivot away from Russia.

Vahan Kerobyan, Armenia's minister of economy and a former HSBC banker, has been shuttling around the UK capital in a bid to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Located in the Caucus region between Russia and the Middle East, Armenia is looking to boost its connections with Western financial centres and shift its geopolitical alignment following war in Ukraine.

While it is not a major trading partner for the UK, the value of goods and services exchanged between the nations has been growing rapidly. Last year, trade between the two countries amounted to £92m, up 156 per cent year-on-year.

Kerobyan told the Mail that the government is aiming to increase this to around £1bn within the next three years, ideally with the help of investment from Western banks.

The delegation has already met with HSBC, his former employer, and also arranged a meeting with US banking giant JP Morgan yesterday.

'We really need to diversify our economic ties,' he said.

No floats of Armenian companies are planned on the London market yet but Kerobyan says this is a possibility for the future.

The government is keen to promote its tech sector, concentrated in the capital Yerevan. Its status as a tech hub dates back to the USSR, when as one of its constituent republics it served as a centre for research. It has previously been dubbed the 'Silicon Valley of the Soviet Union.'

Armenia is now looking to regain that crown, with Kerobyan noting that multinational tech giants such as computer chip group Nvidia, IT giant Oracle and communications group Cisco all have a presence in the country.

The minister also noted Armenia's vast reserves of copper, key for electrification and renewable energy, as well as what he said was its 'booming' solar power industry.

Recent events in the region have also accelerated Armenia's drive to boost its economy. The country is accommodating around 100,000 refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave which last month was seized by its neighbour Azerbaijan.

But Kerobyan seemed outwardly unfazed by the flare-up in the region, saying the assault on Nagorno-Karabakh would not present risks to Armenia's fiscal stability.

He noted that the country's credit rating had been upgraded in August by S&P Global Rating, a leading US rating agency, after an influx of professionals from Russia. The emigres boosted the IT sector, which grew by 51 per cent last year.

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS