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  #57 (permalink)  
Old 3rd March 2018, 17:47
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Ukrainians face a chilly weekend as Naftogaz plans to cut gas deliveries by 5-10% on Saturday after Russia’s Gazprom refused on Thursday to send gas that Naftogaz had paid for. Due to unseasonably cold temperatures and a 20% cut in Russian gas entering Ukraine, “approximately 10 million cubic meters of gas per day will be the expected deficit, which we cannot now cover," Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev told the National Security and Defense Council Thursday evening. Kobolyev said Naftogaz would not take transit gas, as that would allow Gazprom "to tell Europeans from their PR perspective: 'Look, they are taking Russian gas again'."

Gazprom is angry that a Stockholm Arbitration Court ordered it Wednesday to pay Naftogaz $2.6 billion. But, by not supplying pre-paid gas to Naftogaz, Russia is violating a separate, December decision by the same court, Kobolyev says. In that decision, Naftogaz was ordered to buy 4 billion cubic meters of gas at market prices. The Naftogaz CEO said on Ukrainian TV Thursday night: “This automatically means that they will not be able to require us this year to take or pay. The cost of this mistake for Gazprom is potentially hundreds of millions of dollars,”

Ukraine has sent to the European Union a note of ‘early warning’ of a gas crisis. Under a mechanism established after the January, 2009 gas crisis, there should be a Ukraine-EU-Russia meeting to guarantee gas flows. "The history of 2009 will not be repeated,” Olena Zerkal, deputy foreign minister for European Integration, wrote on Facebook. "Stockholm, the [EU] Association Agreement, and the reform of the gas market have finally changed the paradigm of relations with the Russian Federation in the gas sector. Blackmail does not work anymore."

Gazprom will be fined $500,000 every day until it pays the $2.56 billion it owes Ukraine, Naftogaz Chief Commercial Officer Yuriy Vitrenko told reporters Thursday. He added: “This will affect Gazprom's reputation. So, we expect that they will pay us $2.56 billion with interest soon." Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “This is a big victory for Naftogaz and very positive news for Ukraine as a whole. We do not believe Gazprom’s appeals will be successful.”

President Poroshenko said that if Gazprom does not start paying the $2.6 billion Naftogaz should start seizing Gazprom assets outside of Russia. Specifically, he suggested assets in Germany connected with construction of North Stream-2, the Russian pipeline devised to end Ukraine’s transit role for Russian gas to Europe.

The Rada approved Thursday a bill simplifying land acquisition and use for oil and gas exploration and production. The bill was first introduced in 2015. Oleg Prokhorenko, head of state gas production company Ukrgazvydobuvannya argued bill was important for developing gas production, Interfax reports. Difficulties in obtaining land plots restrains gas production by about 1 billion cubic meters per year, or 5 percent of last year’s production.

Due to heavy snow, schools and many offices in Kyiv will be closed on Friday and Saturday. Several regional airports have been closed and some flights from Kharkiv were delayed or cancelled. Highways have been opened and closed in Odesa, a Black Sea region with few snowplows.

In a surprise move, the central bank lifted its key interest rate by one full percentage point to 17 percent, the highest since mid-2016. No economists in a Bloomberg survey predicted the hike. The National Bank of Ukraine cited inflation concerns, but indicated that it may now pause as interest rates are high enough to hold down prices. The bank said in a statement: “The NBU believes that after several policy rate increases, which began in October 2017, the current monetary conditions are sufficiently tight to bring inflation back to its mid-term target.” Timothy Ash writes: “Very sober, and logical move by the NBU given inflation pressures. Smoliy's credibility in the market's eye continues to rise. Not sure Smoliy has improved his chances of being affirmed as governor in a permanent capacity by this move.”

Consumer inflation hit 14.1% in January, Yakiv Smoliy, acting governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, told a briefing Thursday. He added: “According to preliminary estimates, soaring inflation was observed in February." The culprits were: unexpected surge in food and services prices, increase in fuel prices and weakening of the hryvnia.

Holland Van Gijzen Advocaten en Notarissen will provide law services to Naftogaz related to the unbundling of the company and creation of a gas transport system operator. According to a report in the ProZorro e-procurement system, the contract is for $630,000, barely one quarter the expected price.

Ovostar Union, the egg producer, increased revenue by 27% last year, to $99 million, according to a company report posted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange website. EBITDA grew by 8.3%, to $26 million. This year, Ovostar plans to boost egg production by 5% to 1.75 billion eggs, and the number of laying hens by 9%, to 7.2 million. Ovostar continues its $15 million investment program at Stavyschanska poultry farm. By 2020, the bird population is to be 10 million heads and egg production 2 billion eggs a year.

Astarta, the nation’s largest sugar producer, plans to build and put into operation a 60,000-ton storage facility at Narkevychy sugar factory in Khmelnytskiy region by 2020, the company reports.

Alexander Yaroslavsky’s DCH group bought on Thursday EVRAZ DMZ, a Dnipro located integrated steel mill specializing in the manufacture and sale of pig iron and rolled steel. Last year, EVRAZ DMZ produced 1 million tons of pig iron, 918,000 tons of crude steel and 785,000 tons of rolled steel products. DCH is paying $106 million for a company that has EBITDA last year of $16 million.

Irish company Altostrata plans to invest EUR255 million to build a 250 MW solar power plant in Dnipropetrovsk region, Interfax reports. To be built over ​​500 hectares in Levadky, 90 km east of Dnipro city, the plant is to produce enough electricity for 40,000 homes and businesses, Valentin Reznichenko, head of Dnipropetrovsk State Administration, said Thursday at the signing ceremony. Torsten Merkel, CEO of the Dublin-based company, said the two-year construction project will create 450 jobs.

New foreign direct investment in Ukraine was $1.9 billion last year, the State Statistics Service said. About one quarter, or $506 million, was from Cyprus, presumably offshore Ukrainian or Russian money. The next four sources were: Russia -- $396 million; the Netherlands -- $262 million; Britain -- $212 million; and Germany -- $119 million.

For comments and story ideas, please email the Editor in Chief, James Brooke at editor@theubj.com
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Old 5th March 2018, 12:42
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Ukraine Business Journal

Gas supplies are to be normal across Ukraine on Monday. Over the weekend, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland stepped in to fill a 10% supply gap caused by Russia’s abrupt cancellation of a supply contract March 1. That was to be Ukraine’s first day of gas purchases from Gazprom since 2015. President Poroshenko tweeted Sunday: “The deficit is now completely covered." On Saturday, Ukraine’s imports of gas from Europe jumped 7-fold, from four to 29 million cubic meters.

In contrast to the Russian shutoffs of 2006 and 2009, gas deliveries to Europe and Moldova continued through Ukraine unchecked. Reverse flow pipelines and pipeline connectors built over the last decade allowed Europe to supply Ukraine with gas, most of it originally from Russia. Poroshenko told the national press on Saturday during a visit to the dispatching office of Ukrtransgaz: "We have fully provided transit of gas to the EU countries. The Russians hoped that Ukraine would start taking gas from transit. Keep dreaming! Ukraine is a reliable transit country, reliable state and reliable partner.”

Naftogaz paid Gazprom $125 million to receive 18 million cubic meters in March. In December, a Stockholm arbitration court ordered Naftogaz to buy up to 5 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia, at market prices. Naftogaz contracted with Gazprom by buy gas at $238.55 per 1,000 cubic meters. Today, spot market prices are above $250. Naftogaz plans to bill Gazprom for the 5% price difference and to cancel the larger purchase. Once again, Kyiv deems the Russian company an unreliable supplier.

As nighttime temperatures in some parts of Ukraine dropped to -21C, Ukrainians switched to electric heaters, causing a winter peak in electricity use in March. Nuclear power plants, source of half of Ukraine’s electricity, ran at full capacity, 11 GW. Power plants were switched from gas to oil, and heating was reduced.

Nationwide gas consumption decreased by 14%, or 25 million cubic meters, last weekend. Yuri Vitrenko, Naftogaz commercial director, wrote on Facebook that four cities cut their gas consumption by more than 20%: Mykolaiv – 21%; Kyiv – 24%; Dnipro – 32%; and Kremenchuk – 35%.

President Poroshenko signed a privatization law designed to streamline the process of selling most of the nation’s 3,000 state companies. Poroshenko said Friday: "Only strategically important enterprises should be preserved in state property." Calling for “fair, competitive and transparent privatization,” he said: “Foreign investors are given the opportunity to appeal to the laws of England and Wales until 2021, until the completion of judicial reform and the creation of new courts at all levels." Russian investors will not be allowed to bid.

Ukraine would become one of four sites worldwide for manufacturing small modular nuclear reactors designed by Holtec International, under a memorandum of understanding signed last week by Energoatom and the US-based company. World Nuclear News reports: “The Ukrainian manufacturing hub is to mirror the capabilities of Holtec's Advanced Manufacturing Plant in Camden.” Holtec also would make in Ukraine components for the reactors, the SMR-160. Yury Nedashkovsky, Energoatom's president, is a member of the Holtec Advisory Council. Last November, Holtec started building near Chernobyl the Centralized Storage of Nuclear Fuel from Ukraine’s 15 nuclear power reactors.

The EBRD is loaning €25.9 million to the KNESS Group, a leading Ukrainian leading engineering and construction company, to build three solar power plants in Vinnytsia, region, about 250 km southwest of Kyiv. Nearly, 350 people will work building the solar stations, which will have a total capacity of 34 MW.

Starting April 1, Maersk, the world's largest container shipping company, will no longer dock at Odesa Sea Commercial Port, according to Dumskaya, a local news site. In letters to clients, the Danish carrier offers two options - the Chornomorsk, 30 km to the southwest, or Yuzhne, 40 km to the east. Maersk does not cite its reasons for pulling out of Odesa. One year ago, USAID abandoned a custom reform project there after Yulia Marushevska, a Maidan activist, quit as head of Odesa Customs. She charged that she was unable to fire corrupt customs officials.

A new “single window” customs clearance procedure is proving popular, accounting for 72% of all customs clearance of goods in February, the State Fiscal Service of reports. Of 158,000 customs declarations in February, more than 113,000 went through the single window.

Reni, Ukraine’s main port on the left bank of the Danube, is to see $1.5 million in investments over the next two years to create a high-tech complex for processing and transshipping organic grain. Located 300 km west of Odesa, Reni is seen as a shipping short cut to Europe, a region where organic is a fast growing food segment. The complex will be built according to the standards of the Brussels-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, or FiBL. Raivis Vezkagans, head of the Sea Ports Authority, believes that complex could attract 80 – 90 new ships a year to the port, which borders Moldova and faces Romania.

David Pollack, CEO of Israel’s Spacecom, an operator of AMOS communications satellite made by Israel Aerospace Industries, held talks in Kyiv with Pavlo Degtiarenko head of Ukraine’s State Space Agency on creating a Ukrainian national satellite communications system. Ukraine’s satellite, the Lybid, has been stored in Russia since summer 2014. Ukraine asserts the satellite will be launched this November from Baikonur, the Russia-controlled space center in Kazakhstan.

BM Bank, a Ukrainian bank with Russian state capital, plans to close according to Financial Club news site. Shareholders plan to make the move at a March 19 meeting. Last Friday, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine prolonged sanctions against four Ukrainian banks with Russian capital: BM Bank, Prominvestbank, Sberbank, and VTB Bank.

In the government-controlled half of Donetsk region, once a productive farming area, major road repairs took place last year, Pavlo Zhebrivsky, head of the regional administration, told reporters in Kramatorsk. Last year, five new asphalt plants were built, eight bridges were repaired, 52 kilometers of main roads were reopened, and 150 village roads were repaired.

By 2022, Ukraine’s roads will be good condition, Prime Minister Groysman promises on his Facebook page. He notes that last year, 2,177 km of roads were built or repaired, more than twice much as the 928 km in 2016. He says this year a record $1.7 billion is to be spent on road repair and construction – more than double last year’s spending.

Poland’s Mirbud S.A construction firm aims to win EUR 50 million in road building contracts in Ukraine over the next two years, company director Marek Gola tells Interfax. Seeing work in Ukraine “for at least another decade,” Gola predicts his company will have an edge as Ukravtodor starts to require contractors to build according to standards of FIDIC, or the International Federation of Consulting Engineers. This selection procedure by Ukraine’s highway agency “will become a huge problem for many Ukrainian road building firms,” he said. But Poland’s road agency “has already set such requirements for its contractors for many years.”

For comments and story ideas, please email the Editor in Chief, James Brooke at editor@theubj.com
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Old 6th March 2018, 18:44
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Ukraine Business Journal

Gazprom announced Monday that it is breaking its gas transit contract with Naftogaz, threatening a $3 billion a year business for Ukraine. Yuriy Vitrenko, Naftogaz commercial director, reacted calmly saying that after 45 days, the dispute would go to arbitration. He said at a press conference: “The process will last for years…from a practical point of view, nothing will happen. The contract will be in place by the end of 2019 [the scheduled end date.]”
Vitrenko said the only cause of concert would be if Gazprom resorts to ‘extra-legal’ actions. Alluding to a mysterious explosion of a natural gas pipeline in the Turkmen desert in 2009, he said Naftogaz is increasing security around key installations of Ukraine’s gas transportation system.

Gazprom's decision to end supply contracts with Naftogaz has alarmed Germany, Europe’s largest gas importer and consumer. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Monday: "The federal government has taken with concern the announcement that Gazprom intends to terminate its contracts with Ukraine's Naftogaz. The fact that gas is not supplied to Ukraine causes even greater concern...if Gazprom now wants to prematurely announce the termination of contracts, it causes irritation not only here in Germany, but also in other EU countries and in the European Commission."

After Gazprom announced that it is breaking its supply and gas transit contracts with Ukraine, Naftogaz announced it will close its representative office in Moscow on March 12. It is unclear whether Russia’s belligerent attitude toward Naftogaz will continue at a high level after Russia’s March 18 presidential election.

A German environmental lawsuit against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will be joined by Ukraine’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. With construction about to behind the suit was lodged by the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, NABU, Ukraine’s Minister of Ecology, Ostap Semerak, wrote on Facebook March 5.

Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin says Ukraine will seek a free trade area with the US. “The future foreign trade area is really a way forward for me," Klimkin said Monday at a press conference in Kyiv. “This is one of the issues that we will try to discuss in detail as part of our commission on strategic partnership.” In January, President Poroshenko said that in the first five months of the Ukraine-Canada free trade agreement, bilateral trade grew by 60%.

Sale of goods and services in January were 28% percent higher in hryvnia than one year earlier, the State Statistics Service reports. This is double the year over year inflation rate of 14%.

Aerospace production increased 26% last year, to the hryvnia equivalent of $170 million, reports the State Space Agency. The increase came in an environment of 13.7% inflation in 2017. The Agency manages 26 aerospace enterprises and organizations.

General Electric’s contract to supply 30 diesel locomotives to Ukrzaliznytsya is for $140.4 million, or $4.7 million per locomotive. Ukreximbank, which is financing the sale, revealed the numbers through the ProZorro procurement system.

Germany’s Siemens, Canada’s Bombardier, China’s CRRC and France’s Alstom, are negotiating sales of electric locomotives, the state railroad’s acting board chairman Yevgeny Kravtsov, tells cfts news site.

A national Credit Register of all loans over $12,000 started Monday. Maintained by the National Bank of Ukraine, the Credit Register is designed to help banks assess credit risks of clients.

Ukrainian pawnshop chain Skarbnytsya, or Treasury, will start offering cash loans taking Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as collateral, according to Bitcoin.com. Skarbnytsya says it has 300 shops and millions of customers. Ivan Ipatov, head of marketing department, told the news site: “The implementation of this project is due to the rapid development of crypto and blockchain in the world.”

A liberal new foreign exchange bill follows the principle that "everything that is not forbidden is allowed," President Poroshenko, the sponsor, tells the National Reforms Council. The draft law "On Currency" envisages the introduction of gradual, consistent and flexible liberalization in the foreign exchange market, and free movement of capital, the President said. Noting that 10,000 Ukrainian businesses make 2.5 million foreign exchange transactions each year, he said of the bill: "The ultimate goal is to improve the conditions for investors, attract investment, new jobs, new revenues to the state budget, currency inflows into the country.”

National Bank of Ukraine author of the foreign exchange bill, believes it will bring Ukrainian “legislation in correspondence with European standards.” Oleh Chiry, NBU deputy governor, tells reporters: “This will indicate that we are finally moving towards free capital movement, removing many restrictions that are currently ineffective and inhibit the inflow of foreign investments.”

The National Bank of Ukraine has simplified procedures for repatriating dividends by foreign investors, reports the Kyiv office of Baker McKenzie law firm. Foreign investors can now repatriate $7 million a month in dividends, a 40% increase over previous limits. In another liberalization, Ukrainian borrowers can now prepay their cross-border loans for up to $2 million a month.

Intensifying ties between the Black Sea and the Baltic were discussed in Riga last week by Prime Minister Groysman and his Latvian counterpart, Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis. The leaders discussed increasing use of Belarus’ Zubr (bison) container train, which travels a 2,000 km north-south route, connecting the Black Sea ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Yuzhne with the Baltic ports of Riga, Ventspils, Liepāja and Tallinn. Trade between Ukraine and Latvia increased by 27% last year to $460 million, pacing overall trade growth between Ukraine and the EU. Trade with Estonia was up 30% to $322 million.

Germany’s state of Bavaria opened a “bureau” Monday in Kyiv’s Gulliver business center on Monday. With Germany’s car industry centered in the southern state, ties have grown with Ukraine, a growing source of auto parts. The office was opened by Dr. Beate Merck, state minister of European affairs and regional communications. Joining her were: First Vice Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin and Mayor Vitali Klitchko, who lived many years in Munich, Bavaria’s capital.

Klingspor, a German manufacturer of cutting discs and abrasive materials, plans to move part of its production capacity from a Paris suburb to its factory in Velyki Mosty, a Lviv region city 100 km from the Polish border. The Lviv region press service reports: "Over the past four years alone, the company has invested more than EUR 7 million in the plant in Lviv. The company has built production, storage and administrative premises with a total area of ​​6.7 thousand square meters in the city of Velyki Mosty, employing more than 200 people.”

For comments and story ideas, please email the Editor in Chief, James Brooke at editor@theubj.com
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Old 7th March 2018, 18:53
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Ukraine’s largest mobile phone operators -- Kyivstar, Vodafone and lifecell -- bid Tuesday to pay a total of $200 million for rights to 4G transmitting bands. Last month, the three companies paid almost $100 million another set of frequencies. President Poroshenko said he hopes that 4G service will be launched in Kyiv this summer and in the other 23 regional capitals by end of this year.

New investment in Ukrainian IT companies hit $265 million last year, triple the level of 2016, according to a report by AVentures Capital. Of 44 deals signed last year, 90% were with four foreign equity funds: General Catalyst, IVP, Spark and Almaz Capital. Overall, foreign capital accounted for 96% of total investment, compared to a 50-50 split with local capital in 2016. According to Dealbook of Ukraine, Ukrainian startups last year attracted investment from: venture funds – 90%; angels -- 6%; and crowdfunding platforms -- 3%.

Speaking with the Financial Times, President Poroshenko calculates that in the year leading up to the March 2019 presidential elections, Ukrainians will see tangible benefits of the free market changes of the last three years and a surge this year in public spending. He said local budgets have increased seven fold and this year’s road building spending will be triple the level of 2015. “Most of the reform that happened two or three years ago is starting to show results now this year,” he told FT’s visiting Eastern Europe editor Neil Buckley. “[There is a rise in our living standard. is a de-shadowing of the economy. [There] is decentralization.”

Poroshenko said he had not decided whether to run for re-election but warned about populists. Interviewed at the time of Italy’s vote, he said: “If the people want populists, if they want to have a Venezuelan-style economy, they should not support me…There is a danger of populist campaigns, definitely, yes. Sorry, but that can happen in any European country.”

On Gazprom breaking its gas supply contract to Ukraine last Thursday: “We received the invoice, paid, and the gas was not supplied. We have absolutely clear procedure in the court that Russia should [pay] a penalty for that. This is a case about if Russia in general can be a reliable energy supplier.” Poroshenko implied that, after Russia’s March 18 presidential vote, Ukraine would resume gas purchases, based on a December Stockholm arbitration court order. He said: “We should buy at least 4bn cubic meters of Russian gas a year, which is not widely acceptable among Ukrainian people, who are asking why we are buying from a country who undertakes aggression against Ukraine? But we fulfil all the decisions of the court.”

Gazprom has appealed the Stockholm court ruling on Ukrainian gas deliveries that triggered last week’s Russia-Ukraine gas crisis. In that ruling, a Stockholm arbitration court ruled that Gazprom had to pay Naftogaz net $2.6 billion. Gazprom also is asking a Stockholm court to end a 10-year contract to supply Ukraine with natural gas. Signed in 2009, that contract ends Dec. 31, 2019.

Gazprom should compensate Naftogaz for overpaying for gas by 34 percent, Naftogaz deputy chief executive Yuri Vitrenko says. He writes on his Facebook page: “34 percent overpayment for imported gas in March will be compensated not by Ukrainians, but by Gazprom.” Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “It seems like Gazprom is still not intending to supply Naftogaz with any natural gas, even though the court obliged the Ukrainian company to buy from Russia no less than 4 bcm annually in 2018-2019…Also, we stick to our expectation that Gazprom won’t pay Naftogaz the amount awarded by the Stockholm court in cash.”

Naftogaz will open an office in Germany, which also will represent the interests of the state company in Austria and Switzerland. At the same time, Naftogaz is closing its office in Moscow, effective Monday.

Ukraine should invest to adapt its gas transport system to a looming decline in gas transit volumes, writes Oleksandr Dombrovsky, acting head of the Rada fuel and energy committee. Writing with gas expert Leonid Unihovsky in ZN.UA, he calls for “the switch to liquefied gas in the places where it is inefficient to supply gas to consumers using pipelines and taking some gas pipelines and compressor stations out of service.” If construction of Nord Stream 2 proceeds this year, Ukraine should invest next year to modify its pipeline system.

While currency counterfeiting is rare in Ukraine, 500 hryvnia notes, the largest in circulation, account for the lion’s share of the fakes, the National Bank of Ukraine reports. In 2017, their share in the total number of counterfeit banknotes increased to 61%, from 38% in 2016. Most seized counterfeit notes - 81% - were made using inkjet and laser printers. Most were passed through supermarkets, fast food stores, and metro ticket windows. Counterfeit foreign notes withdrawn from circulation reflect Ukraine’s increasingly Western orientation: US dollars – 78%; Euros - 16%; and Russian rubles - 6%.

The delay in loans from the IMF is forcing to Ukraine to maintain a requirement for firms to sell 50 percent of their foreign currency income, Deputy Central Bank Governor Oleh Churiy tells reporters.

Romania’s state-owned pharma company Antibiotice will expand this year to Moldova and Ukraine, according to a statement by the Bucharest Stock Exchange.

Registrations of imported used cars for the first time surpassed registrations of imported new cars, reports Ukrautoprom, the car industry association. In February, 6,166 imported used cars were registered. From August 2016 through this December, a law allows individuals to import one used car a year at lower excise tax rates. With the presidential election next year, this popular law is expected to be extended.

An open auction for a 315-square meter retail space in Boryspil Aiport’s Terminal D resulted in the monthly rent increasing four fold – to $174 per square meter. Vitaliy Trubarov, acting head of the State Property Fund, reported the rent jump on his Facebook page. In its third year of growth, Boryspil’s passenger flow increased by 22% last year to 10.5 million. The Infrastructure Ministry has set a 5-year goal of doubling to 20 million by 2022.

Delta Air Lines, the largest American carrier, has completely abandoned flights to Russia, deciding not to renew seasonal flights this summer from New York to Moscow. Delta started cutting back flights to Moscow in 2015 due to falling passenger numbers.
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Old 18th March 2018, 17:32
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Federica Mogherini, the EU’s de facto foreign minister, calls Ukraine’s rising exports to the EU “the main driver of economic growth in the country.” Ukraine’s exports to the EU increased by 21% last year, 10 times as fast as the 2.1% growth of Ukraine’s GDP. Talking to UNIAN before flying to Kyiv on Sunday, Mogherini said the EU-Ukraine free trade pact “was a great success.” Today, she meets President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Groysman for what is largely a security related visit.

Siemens AG and Ukrzaliznytsya are discussing joint production of locomotives in Ukraine, the Center for Transport Strategies reports. Earlier, Yevhen Kravtsov, head of Ukrainian Railways, said he was interested in buying Siemens locomotives. Last week, he traveled to Berlin and met with executives of Siemens and Deutsche Bahn.

Ukraine wants to have its steel exempted from the new U.S. 25% tariff on steel imports. "We believe that Ukrainian products, for which the US market is traditional, are not a threat to US national security," Ukraine's trade representative Natalia Mikolskaya writes on Facebook. “We are in constant dialogue with the US government and in contact with Ukrainian producers on this issue." At present, exemptions only apply to U.S’s two NAFTA trading partners, Mexico and Canada.

Ukrainians soon will be able to import diesel cars from Germany at a steep discount, predicts Novini Zakarpattia, a news site edited in Uzhgorod, Ukraine’s only car making city. The site calculates that 12.3 million diesel cars – 82% of all the diesel cars on the road in Germany today – will be illegal under strict new anti-pollution rules that come into effect by Jan. 1, 2020. In February, Ukraine’s imports of used cars equaled those of new cars. This comes after tariffs were lowered and paperwork was simplified to import cars.

In a drive to hold down household gas bills, Prime Minister Groysman is setting a goal of cutting gas consumption by one third over the next five years. Over the last four years, Ukraine cut its gas consumption by one quarter, partly due to loss of heavy industry, partly to due to investments in energy efficiency. Now the target is annual consumption of 13 billion cubic meters in 2022, about half the 24 billion consumed in 2014. To retrofit Soviet-era housing, the government has extended ‘warm loans’ to 400,000 households to install insulation, modern windows and efficient water boilers.

An EU grant of €10m will improve energy efficiency at state universities in Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Poltava, Sumy and Vinnytsia. The money comes from the European Investment Bank and the multi-donor Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership. Fund Manager Anders Lund called the project “one step toward increased energy security in Ukraine.”

The Ukraine-Russia gas standoff was defused last week, when Ukraine returned to buying all its gas from Europe. The confrontation revealed an x-ray of contemporary gas flows. Currently, the Balkans and Bulgaria are most dependent on Russian gas flowing through Ukraine. Austria and Slovakia also use a lot of this gas, but due to interlinked pipelines, they can now get their gas from other sources. Germany relies on Russia for 40% of its gas, but most of that comes from North Stream or through Belarus and Poland. Jörg Forbrig of the German Marshall Fund tells Deutsche Welle: "The pipeline that runs through Ukraine plays a marginal role, at least for German consumers and the German market.”

“New Russia-Ukraine natural gas dispute: a lot of noise for nothing?” is the headline of an analysis in Platts, the oil and gas news site. “The critical question is: what is likely to happen next?” asks senior writer Stuart Elliott. “In a nutshell, the answer is: a lot of noise, but probably nothing to impact European gas markets.” Turning to Ukraine and Russia, he writes: “According to the final Stockholm ruling, Naftogaz is owed $2.6 billion by Gazprom. Will it see the money any time soon? Almost certainly not… These appeal processes could also drag on for years, so Naftogaz is unlikely to see any cash in the near term.”

A Space Agency of Ukraine team is to visit Australia this year to pitch construction of a binational spaceport in the Kimberly region, adjacent to Royal Australian Air Force Base Curtin, Mykola Kulinich, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia, tells The West Australian. Located midway between Perth and the Equator, “the facility could become Asia’s major launch site, servicing commercial launches for Australia’s regional partners such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia,” writes Nick Evans in the Perth-based newspaper. “Construction of launch pads, hangars and support facilities could be funded through private investment, as well as contributions from Australia’s neighbors and allies.”

Mondelez Ukraine, formerly Kraft Foods Ukraine saw a 5.5-fold rise in net profit in 2017, to UAH 310.2 million. Mondelez International group is of one of the world’s largest producers of chocolate goods, cookies, sweets, and chewing gum. In Ukraine, the company owns Trostianets confectionery factory in Sumy and Chips Lux in Kyiv region.

Latvia and Ukraine are working to nearly double their trade turnover to $800 million, Prime Minister Groysman writes on Facebook. Fresh from a visit to Riga on March 2, he writes: “We are working on projects of joint ventures to enter the markets of third countries.” Last year, bilateral trade increase 27%, to $460 million.

Foreign and defense ministers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania met last week with their U.S. counterparts in Washington to encourage the US to block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, RFE/RL reports. The Baltic nations fear the bypass pipeline will free Russia to attack Ukraine and Poland without having to pay an economic price. At present, Russian gas travels to Germany through several pipelines in Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.

Football Club Shakhtar is formally moving from Donetsk city to Mariupol, a registration change that will bring the Sea of Azov port an extra $7.5 million in taxe revenue Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko, tells Interfax. He says: “While Shakhtar cannot play at the Donbas Arena…it will help develop the football and sports infrastructure of Mariupol.”.

An Austria-Ukraine economic forum will be held Wednesday at the Fairmont Hotel with the participation of Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen. In the morning, there will be B2B meetings with members of an Austrian business delegation. In the afternoon, Van der Bellen and Richard Schenz, vice president of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, will speak. Until World War 1 about 20% of present date Ukraine was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, Austria is a major investor, especially in Western Ukraine. Austrian Airlines maintains daily direct flights to Vienna from Kyiv Boryspil and Lviv. UIA flies to Vienna from Boryspil.

Have a question about UBJ.am? UBJ.am Editor James Brooke talks tomorrow – Tuesday – at 7 pm at America House. The topic is “Covering Ukraine: An American Journalist in Kyiv.” There will be plenty of time for questions. America House is on Mykoly Pymonenka St. No. 6. That is a 10-minute walk from Lukianivska Metro station on the Green Line. Bring your passport to get in!
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Federica Mogherini, the EU’s de facto foreign minister, said in Kyiv that there is “no fatigue” over Ukraine in Brussels. Speaking Monday, she cited Friday’s decision to extend EUR1 billion in macro financial aid to Ukraine and Monday’s decision to extend EU sanctions on Russia. Asked about eventual EU membership, she told students: “The first step is to ensure the implementation of the Association Agreement and its provisions on the FTA, and use all its advantages.” On her fifth visit to Ukraine, Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister, said: “The European Union is Ukraine's partner and strongest supporter in striving to build a stable, prosperous democracy and economy.”

The EU on Monday extended its sanctions against Russian for another six months. Adopted after the annexation of Crimea four years ago, the sanctions, including travel restrictions and asset freezes against 150 people and 38 companies, now run until Sept. 15.

EU and IMF macro aid is contingent on the Rada approving an independent anti-corruption court. In Kyiv, Mogherini stressed this is in Ukraine’s self interest: “Establishing an independent anti-corruption court, fully in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, would also help the business environment and the investment climate. And this would also help - together with continued progress on privatization, energy and land reform - to unlock the Ukrainian economic potential.”

Goldman Sachs believes “there is a 60-65% chance of disbursement” of IMF money to Ukraine before the program expires, one year from now. A visiting team from the New York investment house, lists obstacles, concluding: “One of the solutions, we think, would be to reduce the original amount of disbursement. Even a smaller tranche would send a positive signal to the market and help unlock other IFI aid.” Mikhail Galkin, credit strategist for Goldman’s Emerging Markets Team, highlights government reluctance to raise household gas prices to market levels -- by around 30% -- in an election year.

With annual inflation currently 14%, the central bank is moving to replace 1, 2, 5 and 10 hrvynia notes with coins. The coins and bills will circulate simultaneously for a transition period. On Wednesday, the National Bank of Ukraine will unveil designs of the four new coins.

Finland has joined many foreign donors in extending aid to Ukraine to cut gas bills by investing in energy efficiency. The latest aid is a five year program for EUR15 million Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said in Kyiv.

Ukraine and Romania are working on an alternative highway from Lviv to the Black Sea – through Bucharest. Regional government heads of Lviv, Chernivtsi and Romania’s border county of Suceata, met last weekend to discuss upgrading the 272 km section in Ukraine, from Lviv to Chernivtsi. This drive through the Carpathians takes 4h20, or an average speed of 63 km an hour. Ukrinform reports Georgy Flutur, head of the Suceava, Romania city council, saying that the regional governments will now contact the EU for highway aid.

Nord Stream 2 pipeline is an instrument of Russian policy that will deepen Europe's dependence on Russia, the heads of parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland write in a letter to the European Parliament. Signed Sunday in Vilnius, the letter says: “The objective of the Nord Stream 2 project is not to diversify the sources of gas supplies. The project aims to deepen the energy dependence of the EU - especially the countries of Central and Eastern Europe from Russia , and also to preserve their vulnerability." Earlier in March, the parliamentary speakers of Ukraine and Moldova signed a similar letter.

Poultry exports were up 40% in January-February, 44,450 tons, compared to the same period last year, the State Fiscal Service reports. For this volume, export earnings increased by 1.6 times, to $69 million.

MHP, Ukraine’s leading poultry producer, is in talks to acquire French poultry firm Doux, which became unprofitable five year ago, after the EU cut export subsidies. Doux is losing out in competition with cheaper Brazilian chicken in key Middle Eastern markets, Reuters reports. Press reports in Paris say the Ukrainian offer involves half of the 1,200 French workers losing their jobs.

Bolloré Group of France has signed a contract with Ukraine’s Bogdan Corporation to build bus bodies for Bolloré’s Bluebus line. The Cherkasy-based company posted on its website: "This contract is the Bogdan breakthrough in the Western European market. We have already cooperated with Eastern European countries, in particular Poland and the Czech Republic.” Bogdan did not say if it would build the bus bodies in its plant in Cherkasy, on the Dnipro River, or at its plant in Lutsk, on the Polish border.

Car production in Ukraine almost doubled in the first two months of this year, hitting 1,085 cars. The entire 94% increase over the same period last year was registered at the Eurocar plant in Uzhgorod, which makes Skoda brand cars. Zaporozhye Automobile Plant, or ZAZ, did not produce any cars in January-February.

ArcelorMittal Kryviy Rih is raising wages, but says it resists pressure to compete with pay levels in Eastern Europe, Ukrinform reports. The company says it takes into account inflation, Ukraine’s labor market, production costs, and forecasts of world metal prices. Arcelor miners recently rallied under the banner of monthly salaries of 1,000 euros.

Freight handling at Ukrainian seaports was up 4.6% in January-February, compared to one year ago, according to the Sea Port Authority. Total freight was 20.5 million tons. The number of ships processed jumped 34%, to 1,850.

Air traffic was the fastest growing mode of transport in Ukraine last year, increasing by 6.5%, the State Statistics Service reports. By contrast, rail transportation dropped by 2.5%

Ukraine opened its first embassy in Chile on Saturday, upgrading relations with a free market success story on the Pacific. Yurii Diudin, the new ambassador, and Vitalii Tsymbaliuk, charge, were in Santiago for Sunday’s inauguration of Chile’s new president, Sebastián Piñera, a conservative billionaire. They opened a Ukrainian-Chilean Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. Since 2015, citizens of both countries have enjoyed visa free travel. There are about 1,000 Chileans of Ukrainian descent, far below the 200,000 in Argentina and 600,000 in Brazil, the two giants of the South Atlantic.
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Reflecting Ukraine’s strong travel demand, Ukraine accounts for almost one quarter of the 70 new European routes that Wizz Air is opening over the next four months. Ukraine’s 16 new routes include: from Lviv to Gdansk, Katowice, Dortmund, and London Luton; from Kyiv Zhuliany to Tallinn and Lisbon; and from Kharkiv airport to Dortmund and Katowice.

The number of foreigners visiting Ukraine increased by 7.4 percent last year, hitting 14.6 million, Ivan Liptuga, head of the National Tourism Organization, tells reporters. Foreign visitors have risen every year since 2015. While Moldova, Belarus and Russia remained the largest source of visitors, the fastest growing nations were Turkey and Israel.

Lufthansa is delaying the launch of six additional Kyiv-Frankfurt flights from March to May. The German carrier blames the delay on negotiations to increase the quota of Kyiv-Frankfurt flights

Oleh Havrylyshyn, eminent Canadian economist, says Ukraine needs to double its economic growth rates. "Given the current situation in Ukraine, its level of development and transition economy, Ukraine’s economy should increase by 5-7% annually," he tells Ukrinform. “To achieve this, greater progress is needed in the reforms." Currently a visiting fellow at the University of Toronto, Havrylyshyn was deputy head of the IMF’s European Department.

Poroshenko says he hopes the anti-corruption law will satisfy IMF and EU demands. After a first version was approved March 1, the Rada is working on a version for the second reading. A Western-approved law is essential to Ukraine winning $2 billion in financing from the IMF, the World Bank and the EU. Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “We still see the approval of a law meeting minimal requirements as our base-case scenario. But eventually, when forced to finally launch the court, we expect that power brokers will make the necessary adjustments to make the court fit their needs (and prevent it from threatening their power), regardless of the legislation that is approved by the IFIs.”

The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, or IFC, is negotiating to take a minority 25% stake in Ukrgasbank, Kirill Shevchenko, head of the state-owned bank, tells UNIAN. He said: “We expect a deal with IFC this year. All preconditions for the state to become a partner with the World Bank, have been created.” Of Ukraine’s state-owned banks, Ukrgasbank is the most prepared for privatization, but it is too early to talk of a date, Shevchenko said.

Epicenter Agro is investing $80 million this year in renewing farm machinery and in reconstructing and expanding its grain elevators. A subsidiary of Epicenter K, the construction hypermarket company, Epicenter Agro was formed in 2015. It farms winter wheat, sunflower, corn, and winter rapeseed on 110,000 hectares in Cherkasy, ​​Khmelnitskiy, Kyiv and Ternopil regions. Pyotr Mikhailishin, Epicenter K general director, told reporters Tuesday: “The plan for this year is for the purchase of $170 million in imported goods. Last year, we exported $50 million in agricultural goods. There is a gap. We have to increase exports three times to hedge our financial risks.”

The USDA predicts Ukraine will export 17.2 million tons of wheat and 20 million tons of corn during the current marketing year, which ends this June. Overall, the US Department of Agriculture forecasts Ukraine will export 42.3 million tons of grain during this marketing year, nearly a 5% drop from the 2016/2017 level.

China's Xinjiang Beiken Energy Engineering has started drilling its first well for Ukrgazvydobuvannia under a contract to drill 24 wells signed last autumn. The press service of Ukraine’s state gas producer reports the Chinese company is drilling in Poltava’s Yablunivske, intending to hit 5,000 meters. Beiken won a tender last fall to drill these wells. In a second tender, for 42 wells last December, Beiken won five of seven lots up for bid. Another Chinese company, Zhongman Petroleum and Natural Gas Group, won a sixth lot.

Reassuring European customers, Gazprom’s head, Alexey Miller, says there is "no risk" for the transit of gas to Europe through Ukraine. Speaking one week after Russia’s state gas company said it was breaking a gas transit contract with Ukraine, he clarified at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: "The termination of contracts is not a very quick procedure. It may take a plus or minus one and a half or two years. But there are no risks for the transit of gas to Europe over the territory of Ukraine at this time."

Japanese container line Ocean Network Express, or ONE, starts service next month to Odesa’s container terminal. The world's sixth largest by fleet capacity, ONE was established last year as a result of the merger of three leading Japanese container lines - MOL, NYK, and K Line. Two new Chinese companies, Yang Ming and Cosco Shipping Lines, started using Odesa’s container port. Israel’s ZIM is increasing its cargo. Igor Yarovenko, the port’s trade director, predicted in a press statement, that this new activity will compensate for the move next month to Yuzhny port by Denmark’s Maersk, the world’s largest shipper. During the first two months of this year, container traffic at Odesa hit 52,499 thousand TEU, a 16.5% increase over the same period last year.

Saudi Arabia and Ukraine plan to start assembling light, multi-purpose versions of the An-132 cargo plane at a new technopark near Taif city, western Saudi Arabia. This technopark will include: an airplane factory with an airfield, an enterprise for manufacturing solar panels, and a solar power station. Construction of the Antonov-Taqnia plant is to take place next year and production is to start in 2021. After Antonov president Alexander Krivokon visited Saudi Arabia last week, the Kyiv-based company estimates Saudi demand will be 80 planes and Middle Eastern demand another 200. The An-132 includes engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada, avionics from CMC Electronics and Honeywell, and propellers from Britain’s Dowty.

Austria’s President, Alexander Van der Bellen, is in Kyiv for a bilateral forum today. He came from Vienna with 40 representatives of Austrian companies, headed by Richard Schenz, vice president of Austria’s Federal Economic Chamber. Meetings are to be held today at the Fairmont Hotel in Kyiv and tomorrow in Lviv. Austria’s imports from Ukraine grew by 35%, to EUR 607 million, through November last year. In Ukraine, major Austrian companies include: Raiffeisen Bank Aval, insurance companies Vienna Insurance Group, UNIQA, GRAWE; ski manufacturers Fischer and Blizzard; and producers of Agrana fruit concentrates and Marzek Etiketten labels Shops here sell jewelry Frey Wille and crystal products Swarovski.

Two hackers based in Chernivtsi, near Romania, defrauded DHL of EUR 1.5 million during a five year period, ending in 2016, according to Cyber department of the National Police of Ukraine. Using stolen personal data and bank accounts, the hackers obtained delivery service credits with DHL, which they later resold at discounts of 50 to 70%. Proceeds were transferred to accounts in Cyprus and Spain.
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