Ukraine’s Health Ministry has reportsed. In this strictest form of quarantine are: Kyiv City and 10 regions — Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zhytomyr and Zakarpattia.
A five-year veteran of Ukraine’s Finance Ministry, Markarova dampened hopes that her main job is to get Ukraine’s IMF program back on track. She said: “Most of the central bodies of financial organizations are located in Washington, and I have a huge successful experience of working with them and a wide base of personal contacts at all levels, including managerial one, but working with the IMF is far from the main task of the ambassador to Washington.”
Ukraine will receive only one IMF tranche this year, predicts Fitch Ratings. Predicting that Ukraine will get less than one quarter of the $2.9 available under the June 2020 Standby Arrangement, the New York-based credit rating agency writes: “Fitch envisions one IMF disbursement of $0.7 billion for 2021, $1.5 billion of other official funding, a higher Eurobond issue than the planned $1.4 billion, and a 0.2% GDP cut in budget reserves.”
Financial needs in the second half of this year will pressure the government to adopt the anti-corruption and free market reforms demanded by the IMF, Fitch predicted. Foreign debt repayments spike in September, to $2.2 billion, and government budget needs increase in the fall.
As Ukrainians gain confidence in money transfer systems, the amount of money transferred inside the country grew by 24% yoy in 2020, to the equivalent of $9.5 billion, reports the National Bank of Ukraine. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth over 20%.
The amount of money sent into Ukraine through money transfer systems increased by 19% yoy, to $2.7 billion. The average amount of one transfer increased by 7%, to $393. The top sources of money coming in by money transfers were: the US, Italy, and Israel. Overall, $12.1 billion was sent into Ukraine last year by informal and formal channels, estimates the central bank.
More movies, better food, and chatbots oriented toward business customers are in the works for Ukrzaliznytsia this year, Alexander Pertsovsky, director of the state railroad’s ‘Passenger Company,’ told Hromadske Radio Friday. Expanding pilot projects, the railroad plans to expand to all long distance trains, the sale of lunch boxes, business lunches, children’s menu and, in partnership with Sweet TV, onling access to 280 films and cartoons with Ukrainian voice overs.
A Viber and Telegram chatbot for buying tickets that UZ launched in January with Visa and Middleware Inc. is to be expanded to handle group sales and “the B2B segment,” said Pertsovsky. UZ is working on a wait list feature for tickets on sold out trains. To promote sales, UZ may pay conductors sales commissions.
UZ will buy 100 new passenger sleeper cars for an expected price of $109 million, according a tender posted last week on Prozorro, the online procurement platform. The tender closes March 30 and the cars are to be delivered by year end. UZ carries about 40% of Ukraine’s long distance passenger traffic.
To boost Black Sea tourism, almost 500 km of bicycle paths are to be built in Odesa and neighboring Mykolaiv regions. In Odesa, two paths totaling 420 km will run on two routes south of the city, Ukravtodor reports on Facebook. One 90km-circuit will connect the resort town of Chornomorsk, Hrybivka and Ovidiopol. A second 250-km ‘Big Bike’ route will run south past Zatoka, Shabo, to 16 and T-16-25 roads and will provide bicycle connections with Zatoka, Shabo, Serhiyivka and Tatarbunary. The paths will largely follow highways, but will be separated from traffic by a fence. In Mykolaiv, governor Vitaliy Kim tells Nik Vesti that the regional government is starting to design 70 km of paths to connect with path to resorts in Kherson and Odesa.
Georgia reopens to foreign tourists today, after almost one year of quarantine. To enter Georgia, Ukrainians need to do two PCR tests – one within 72 hours of takeoff and a second 72 hours after arrival. In response, Ukraine’s SkyUp Airlines launches flights this week from Kyiv Borsypil, Zaporozhia, Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv to Tbilisi and Batumi. On Friday, Ukraine’s Health Ministry ranked Georgia as ‘Green’ is its coronavirus listing.
Rivals Wizz Air and Ryanair are gambling that Italy will open up for Ukrainian tourism at the end of this month. Starting March 28, Ryanair starts service from Lviv to Bari, Naples, Palermo, Pisa, Treviso and Turin. Wizz Air starts flights from Lviv to Catania and Verona. From Odesa, Wizz Air starts flights to Bologna, Milan-Malpensa and Treviso. From Kyiv Sikorsky, Wizz Air starts service to Bologna, Catania, Milan-Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino. Lumiwings, a new Greek charter airline, plans to start flying in June between Odesa and Forli and Perugia, two cities in central Italy.
Bees Airline, a new Ukrainian lowcost startup, plans to start flying this month from Kyiv Sikorsky to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Marsa Alam and in April to Mombasa, Kenya. The airline has leased two Boeing 737-800s that were used for nine years by UIA. Because of the pandemic, Bees reportedly was able to lease each Boeing for $10,000 a day – a 30% discount over pre-pandemic rates.
Bell Textron’s ‘Huey’ helicopters, the US military’s workhorse in the Vietnam War, will be assembled in coming months at Ukroboronprom’s Odesa Aviation Plant under license from the Fort Worth, Texas company. Formally called the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, the first helicopter should be started in time for Ukraine’s 30th Independence Day, Aug. 24, Yuriy Gusev, CEO of Ukraine’s defense conglomerate, said Friday after a visit to the plant. Most of the 16,000 Hueys made since 1952 have been manufactured in Texas or Quebec. The Odesa plant, which specializes in the repair and maintenance of Soviet-design aircraft, is expected to largely assemble helicopter components manufactured in North America.
US investments in Ukraine are expected by the end of this year in a series of areas, Oksana Markarova, said in a lengthy interview with Ukrinform made prior to her traveling to Washington to take up her new post Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States. “We are already discussing a number of projects in the defense sector, energy, mining, agriculture, where I hope we will be able to show progress during the first six to twelve months,” she said. “Above all high technologies in other areas – high-tech, agrotech, medicine, as well as the military-defense sector.”
Capital investment in Ukraine’s economy fell 28% yoy last year, to $15 billion, reports the State Statistics Service. Investment in industry and agriculture fell by 34%; in construction by 36%; in retail by 29.5%; in real estate transactions by 29%. Investment in computers and telecom grew by 1.2%.
Two thirds of capital investments came from company funds. State budget funds accounted for 9%. Foreign investors accounted for only 0.4%. The drop in 2020 came after an 11% increase in 2019. During 2020, the drop deepened with every quarter, finishing with a 43% drop in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter of 2019.
Directing infrastructure investments into Luhansk, Ukraine’s easternmost region, Ukravtodor plans to pave three key road sections this year, totaling 176 km. By comparison, from 2014 to 2019, a total of 30 km of roads were repaired in the region, Alexander Kubrakov, CEO of the state highway agency, said Wednesday at the Ukraine 30 Infrastructure Forum. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank are helping to fund this year’s road work. Kubrakov said: “We will try to expand this project to the Donetsk region, our international partners are interested in this.”
As medical teams started vaccinating yesterday in all 24 regions, the Health Ministry reported a 40% spike in the daily toll of detected cases – 8,147. By March 31, Ukraine is to receive 2 million doses of of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, enough to vaccinate 1 million people, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on TV Ukraina yesterday.
President Zelenskiy has appointed former finance minister Oksana Markarova as ambassador to the United States. The president’s office said Thursday: “Oksana Markarova will set an example in the development of economic diplomacy: in attracting foreign direct investment in Ukraine, in promoting Ukrainian exports and defending the interests of Ukrainian business.”
Ukroboronprom and Pakistan have signed an $85.6 million contract for the repair of the main battle tanks that Ukraine sold to Pakistan between 1997 and 2002. The Soviet-design T-80UD tanks were manufactured in Kharkiv at the Malyeshev Factory. After an initial shipment in 1997, Russia protested that Ukraine did not have export rights and withheld key components. Ukraine filled part of the order from stocks, then fabricated parts to complete the full order for 320 tanks.
The maintenance contract with Pakistan was signed at IDEX-2021, the week-long international arms exhibition that ended yesterday in Abu Dhabi. “The Ukrainian delegation reached a number of preliminary agreements with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the areas of high-precision weapons, unmanned platforms, space technologies, and aircraft engine repair,” Interfax-Ukraine reports. Strategic Industries Minister Oleh Urusky headed Ukraine’s mission and wrote on Facebook that he met with Brazil’s Deputy Defense Minister Marcus Pontis.
Ukraine accuses Russian hackers of trying to disseminate malicious documents through a web-based system on which government documents are circulated. The aim was to contaminate information resources on the System of Electronic Interaction of Executive Bodies, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said. “The methods and means of carrying out this cyber attack allow (us) to connect it with one of the hacker spy groups from the Russian Federation,” the council said. Separately, on Monday, Kyiv accused Russian internet networks of attacks on Ukrainian security and defense websites.
Microsoft President Brad Smith told the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington Tuesday. Smith said: “We’ve seen substantial evidence that points to the Russian foreign intelligence agency, and we have found no evidence that leads us anywhere else.” At least nine government agencies and 100 private companies were breached. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday it will be “weeks, not months,” before the U.S. responds to Russia.
Ukrainians spend $4.2 billion on imports of new and used vehicles last year, reports Ukravtoprom, the car industry association. Car imports were down by 11%, to 486,300, or $3.5 billion. Almost 100,000 cars were imported from Germany, making it the top source. As restrictions on diesel cars spread in Germany, prices on late model diesels have dropped, making them attractive to Ukrainian buyers. Sales of trucks and vans dropped by 16%, to 43,500. Germany was also the top supplier.
Over the next five years, up to $500 million will be invested to develop a year round resort in mountains around the century-old Carpathian resort of Slavske, Lviv region. Phase one will include 20 km of ski trails and hotels and ski-in ski-out condos, that Vasyl Danyliak, first vice president of OKKO Group, the lead investor. Danyliak and Oleksandr Shevchenko,co-owner of Bukovel, signed an agreement Wednesday with Ukravtodor on development of roads to support Carpathian mountain tourism.
The tourist flow and spending has not changed this winter at Bukovel, Shevchenko told Interfax-Ukraine at the Infrastructure Forum. Tourist spending averages €150 per day. Many skiers and snowboarders bought their passes last summer at a 50% discount. Shevchenko said that $15 million was invested in Bukovel last year. Looking ahead, he said the resort owners would like to invest in storing the terminal at Ivano-Frankivsk airport, if the Infrastructure Ministry rebuilds the old Soviet runway.
HBO, the US pay TV network, is negotiating with Ukraine to create an “offline attraction” in the Chornobyl Zone, deputy presidential chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko, told the Infrastructure Forum. “It will not be an amusement park…it will attract many foreign tourists,” he said of the decommissioned nuclear plant, a 2-hour drive north of Kyiv. In 2019, millions of viewers around the world watched HBO’s 5-part Chernobyl miniseries. This April 26, the 35th anniversary of the nuclear disaster, marks the start of a program to memorialize the area, says Ukraine’s Culture and Information Policy Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko.
To prepare for boat tours as early as this year from Kyiv to Chornobyl, the Pripyat River was dredged last year by the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. To allow the passage of a boat with a maximum draft of 1.6 meters, the Authority dredged 130,000 cubic meters from the 64 km section of the river between the Kyiv Sea and the Belarus border. Environmentalists warned that dredging in the exclusion zone would stir up radioactive sediments from the 1986 nuclear plant fire. Environmental Protection Minister Roman Abramovsky responded last summer that radioactivity was monitored daily and that no river sediment was thrown ashore.
German and Biden Administration officials are discussing a package of measures that would allow the Russia-German gas line to open, but protect Ukraine’s security concerns, according to a Financial Times story headlined: “Germany aims for new deal with Washington on Nord Stream 2.” One proposal would empower Germany – or a German-American commission — to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia stopped sending minimum gas flows across Ukraine, increasing risk of an all-out Russian military attack.
“As Berlin seeks solutions, early signs from Washington indicate that the Biden administration is seeking to defuse the Nord Stream 2 debate,” the FT writes. “Two knowledgeable sources said [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken has demonstrated a willingness to minimize sanctions.” Bloomberg later posted a matching story yesterday, headlined: “Germany Seeks Deal With Biden on Controversial Pipeline.” Bloomberg quotes Mark Helfrich, a Bundestag member from the ruling Christian Democratic Union, saying: “German, EU and U.S. officials are in talks about a package of measures which seeks to enhance Ukrainian stability and European energy sovereignty.”
A cold weather spike in electricity consumption, a lack of coal, and power plant breakdowns are forcing Eastern Ukraine to import electricity from Belarus and Russia and Western Ukraine to import electricity from Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, reports Ukrenergo, the national power distribution company. As of Monday, 19 thermal power plants were offline, pulling 6,270 MW out of the system, Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, Ukrenergo’s chairman told a forum in Kyiv yesterday.
Electricity consumption last week was 6.5% more than forecast. But coal reserves fell to one third of required minimums. Thanks to imports, Kudrytskyi does not predict immediate power shortages.
DTEK Group, Ukraine’s largest private power producer, called on the government yesterday “to abolish price caps, which are an obstacle to the liberalization of the electricity market.” The company cited the example of the EU, where the cost of electricity production during peak loads can increase significantly. DTEK said: “We call on the government to intervene in the situation and immediately hold an anti-crisis headquarters with the participation of the Prime Minister.”
Ukraine’s Energoatom will soon stop sending spent nuclear fuel to Russia for processing and storage, Petro Kotin, the company head, said yesterday. In July, the Centralized Spent Fuel Storage Facility will open, he said. At the same, time, Energoatom is completing a 43 km rail connector to the facility, built by Holtec, a US company, near Chornobyl. Nuclear supplies about half of Ukraine’s electricity.
With demand strong for Ukrainian government bonds, the Finance Ministry depressed yields on all five hryvnia bonds sold at yesterday’s auction, the Ministry reported. With yields dropping from six to 44 basis points, the final range was 9.15% for 3-month bonds to 12.05% for 3-year bonds. The government sold hryvnia bonds for the equivalent of $213 million. Also posting results on Facebook, the Ministry says it sold $42 million worth of 2-year dollar bonds at 3.9% and €70.5 million worth of 1-year euro bonds at 2.5%.
Looking beyond the bland public statements surrounding Ukraine’s recent suspension of talks with the IMF, Anders Aslund, a veteran IMF observer, writes in an Atlantic Council blog: “No agreement was concluded between the IMF and the Ukrainian government recently because they fundamentally disagree about pretty much everything.” Offering the only way forward, Aslund writes that President Zelenskiy “urgently needs to refocus on the anti-corruption messages that enabled him to win landslide election victories in the presidential and parliamentary votes of 2019.” Without real actions, he writes, the IMF “has no compulsion to offer credits to the dishonest.”
DiDi, China’s giant online taxi service, plans to launch this year in Ukraine, reports AIN.ua news site. With 550 million users, tens of millions of users and billions of dollars in revenues, DiDi entered Russia last year, a first step in a plan to expand across Eastern Europe. Last week, DiDi posted on the GRC job search website that is looking for a manager to launch in Ukraine.
DiDi will compete with Bolt, Uber and Uklon for Ukraine’s taxi market, estimated by Uklon at $800 million a year. Uber, the first mover in Ukraine, now operates in seven Ukrainian cities and claims that 4.3 million Ukrainians have downloaded its mobile app. Uklon operates in 19 cities and claims nearly 3 million users. Bolt operates in 10 cities and claims 3 million users.
Taxi services got a boost yesterday when the Rada overwhelmingly approved a bill raising the penalty for drunk driving to $608. For repeat offenders, the fine is doubled to $1,216, licenses are suspended for three years and vehicles can be seized. The Rada also tripled the fine – to $60 – for drivers caught breaking the national speed limit of 50km per hour in populated areas.
McDonald’s Ukraine plans to expand a pilot program of restaurant waste recycling to all 96 restaurants in the country by the end of this year, the company announced yesterday. As part of a worldwide McDonald’s drive to switch from plastics to paper by 2025, the restaurants in Ukraine switched last year to paper cups for drinks and paper boxes for salads.
Kyiv’s 11th Regus office work space opens in Podil next month, reports the parent company, Luxembourg-based IWG Plc. Despite last year’s economic recession, total occupancy of the 10 existing Regus work spaces in Kyiv is 78%, Yulia Lytvynenko, Ukraine director of IWG, tells Interfax-Ukraine. Predicting that several large leases will be signed in coming weeks, she predicts that the overall occupancy will rise “to 83% by March.” The new Regus will occupy three floors of the new Volodymyrsky business center on Poshtova Square, near Poshtova Metro station and the Kyiv Funicular. Lytvynenko says: “The highlight, surely, will be beautiful views of the Dnipro River on the one hand and the [Volodymyrska Hill] park on the other.”
Kyiv’s Sikorsky Airport is to add 500 meters to its runway, allowing Wizz Air, its primary user, to use larger jets. By moving to Airbus 321 jets, Wizz Air says it can reduce frequencies and noise in the capital’s Zhuliany neighborhood. Wizz Air has ordered 190 Airbus 321s, which carry 30% more passengers than the Airbus 320s, currently the workhorse of Wizz Air.
Mayor Klitschko signed an order last week for design work to start on a 5-year upgrade of the airport. By expanding the runway to 2,810 meters, upgrading lights and adding an instrument landing system, the airport is to be certified to land jets in bad weather, avoiding diversions to Boryspil. Ukraine’s second busiest airport, after Boryspil, Sikorsky handled 2.6 million passengers in 2019. The City Council is mulling a second expansion: increasing the airport’s territory by 5%, to 278 hectares.
“Dmitri lokfuhrer,” or Dmitri, the locomotive engineer, is the poster boy for Deutsche Bahn’s new Ukrainian language recruiting advertisement for Ukrainian train drivers. Featuring a video of Dmitri driving a late model DB passenger train, the announcement offers: assistance with relocation to Germany, up to 1 year training in Berlin or Leipzig, a compensation package, and an open-ended full-time employment contract with Deutsche Bahn. Requirements are higher education and B1, or intermediate, spoken German. Train engineer salaries in Germany are €3,500 a month, or five times the level in Ukraine.
In a symbolic step toward privatizing Ukraine’s state-dominated banking sector, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation is extending a €30 million euro loan to state-owned Ukrgasbank, which can be converted into the bank’s equity shares. Ukrgasbank is one of four state-controlled banks, a group that has 60% market share in Ukraine. Last September, Ukraine’s government approved a goal of cutting this market share to 25% in 2025. Andrii Kravets, Chairman of Ukrgasbank’s Board said: “This step comes as a key milestone in privatising Ukrgasbank and curtailing the government’s share of the banking sector.”
“Ukrgasbank will be Ukraine’s first state-owned bank to go private,” the National Bank of Ukraine said in a press release. “The new €30mn loan lays the groundwork for the bank’s transformation.” Kyrylo Shevchenko, the current Central Bank
Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “Taking into account that Ukrgazbank was best-prepared for an international financial institution entering into its equity, and that the negotiation process with IFC took more than three years and ended up in just a loan, we can conclude that the timing of a privatization, or an IFI entering into another state bank, will be quite long.”
The IMF has raised its world GDP growth forecast to 5.5% for this year, according to its World Economic Outlook Update released yesterday. Growth is predicated on aggressive and successful global vaccination campaigns against coronavirus. Emerging market economies will rebound by 6.3% this year, the IMF predicts. Other IMF GDP growth forecasts are: India – 11.5%; China – 8.1%; Spain – 5.9%; France 5.5%; US – 5.1%; UK – 4.5%; Eurozone – 4.2%; Brazil – 3.6%; Germany – 3.5%, Japan – 3.1%; Italy, Russia and Ukraine – 3%.
Ukraine wants to extend its $5.2 billion IMF loan program by another six months, to June 2022, reports LB.ua. Approved last June, the program was designed to release the money in five tranches through the end of this year. However, after an initial release of $2.1 billion, the program stalled due to the IMF’s perception that the Zelenskiy Administration strayed from the free market guidelines.
Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy wrote: “The Fund will demand the full restoration of the recently damaged anti-corruption infrastructure. Therefore, the lb.ua allegations are in line with our assessment that the probability of Ukraine of securing next IMF tranche in 1Q21 is below 50%. A likely delay of the next tranche is not a big risk for Ukraine’s public finances as soon as there is still a high chance for renewed cooperation with the IMF in 1H21.”
The Finance Ministry lowered yields on three of four-hryvnia Government Bonds it offered at auction yesterday, the Ministry reported on Facebook. By squeezing the supply of 6-month bonds, it lowered the average yield by 87 basis points to 9.86%. For 1.5-year bonds, the yield dropped seven basis points to 11.68%, and for 2-year bonds, the yield dropped 13 basis points, to 11.81%. For 3-year bond, the yield was unchanged at 12.15%. The Ministry auctioned the equivalent of $268 million, about 60% the volume of the prior week, according to the Ministry’s website.
The Finance Ministry sold last year the equivalent of $13.6 billion worth of bonds, reports the Ministry. About one third of the bonds were in foreign currency — $3.8 billion and €800 million. State banks led the list of top purchasers: Privatbank, Ukrgasbank, Oschadbank, OTP Bank, Ukreximbank, Citibank and Raiffeisen Bank Aval. Top dealers in the secondary market were: Citibank, OTP Bank, Ukrgasbank, FUIB, Raiffeisen Bank Aval, Alfa-Bank, Kredobank and Oschadbank. At the end of December, Ukrainian banks held 52% of the bonds, the central bank held 32.5% and foreigners held 8.5%.
With Argentina and Russia moving next month to curb corn exports, Ukraine is meeting domestic consumers half way, imposing an export quota of 24 million tons, 8% higher than what pig and poultry producers wanted. High world corn prices are pushing producing countries to make they keep enough at home for domestic needs. Halfway through the marketing year, Ukraine has exported about half of its new quota for corn, its largest export crop, reports the Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture Ministry.
Ukraine’s food exports to the EU slipped by 11% last year, to €6.5 billion, the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club reports on Facebook. Ukraine was tied with China as the third largest source of imported food for the EU. In terms of market share, the ranking was: Brazil – 9%; US – 8%; and China and Ukraine – 5%. Last year, Ukraine fully used its quotas for duty-free export to the EU for 11 product foods: honey, sugar, cereals and flour, starch, processed tomatoes, grape and apple juices, eggs, corn, poultry, and processed cereal products.
Poland, Slovakia and Hungary recruit heavily for Ukrzaliznytsia’s railway workers, leading to a growing labor shortage here, reports the Center for Transportation Strategies. “There are a huge number of job advertisements for railway workers in European countries, most of all in neighboring Poland, reports the story headlined: “How Ukrainian Railway Workers Leave the Country.” “The average age of people who quit and went to work abroad is 25-45 years,” a UZ union representative tells reporter Alina Kostyuchenko. Every year, about 5% of UZ’s 260,000 workers leave UZ before retirement.
In the first quarter of 2021, DTEK Energy will launch Ukraine’s first industrial-scale energy storage system project, DTEK CEO Maksym Timchenko announced last week. US company Honeywell is building with DTEK a 1 MW energy storage system based on lithium-ion batteries, near DTEK’s Zaporizhia Power Plant. Energy storage is seen as a key to balancing the peaks and low of solar power.
With demand high for lithium for batteries, Gosgeonadr, the state Geology Service, is trying to conduct a public, online auction of two deposits – a 40-hectare site in Donetsk region and a 300-hectare site in Kirovohrad region. “However, there are attempts through the courts to disrupt open electronic bidding,” Roman Opimakh, head of Gosgeonadr, writes on Facebook. “This is in order not to pay a fair price set by open competitive bidding.” Noting that the Donetsk site may have 13.5 million tons of lithium ore, he writes: “There is a significant demand for the ‘metals of the future’ in the world market – and this includes lithium.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office yesterday charged Oleksandr Tupytsky, chairman of the Constitutional Court, with bribing a witness to make him give false testimony. The charge comes one week after Radio Svoboda posted audiotapes in which Tupytsky tried to dissuade a Donetsk businessman from testifying against another controversial judge, Viktor Tatkov.
The Cabinet of Ministers approved yesterday seven production-sharing agreements with private and state companies for the production of oil and gas. Only one foreign company is involved – Houston-based Aspect Energy, a business in partnership with Sigma Bleyzer. A Canadian company, Vermilion Energy, dropped out in November, citing low oil and gas prices. Companies have until January 7 2021 to sign their agreements.
Ukraine’s biggest ski resort Bukovel is fully booked through the New Year’s holidays, Reuters reports from the Carpathians. With EU skis closed or inaccessible to Ukrainian tourists, Bukovel is jammed. The resort, which covers five mountains, usually draws 2 million visitors in the winter. Unlike some other European countries, Ukraine has not imposed any restrictions on travel within the country.
Ukraine faces a second year of high foreign debt payments in 2021– $16.1 billion. This is almost double the payments expected for 2022 – $8.6 billion – and $8.9 billion in 2023, the Finance Ministry reported on Facebook. In 2020, through November, Ukraine has paid $16.9 billion for public debt principal and interest. For 2021, Ukraine will have to pay $10.9 billion domestic debt principal and interest. The country will have to pay $5.2 billion in foreign debt principal and interest
AVELLUM law firm is emerging as Ukraine’s leading advisor on Eurobond issuances, advising on $1.2 billion worth of bonds in the second half of 2020. They were: Kernel’s $300 million offering of 2027 notes at 6.75%; the Finance Ministry’s issuance of $600 million Eurobond at 6.20%, the lowest in Ukraine’s history; and Ukreximbank’s cash tender offer of $316 million.
Since freight service started in June 2020, 22 Chinese container trains have arrived at Kyiv-Liski Left Bank station, reports Ukrzaliznytsia. The trains take about two weeks to travel 9,000 km from China to here. UZ is working with Ukrainian exporters to fill trains returning to China. One month ago, UZ and DHL Global Forwarding signed an agreement to develop rail freight between China and Europe, the railroad reports.
Ukrzaliznytsia is forcing the first private freight operator on UZ tracks to charge haulage tariffs seven times those of the state railroad, reported RBK Ukraina. Earlier this month, UZ signed the first contract for private locomotives on public tracks with Lviv’s Ukrainian Locomotive Building Company. “Given the tariffs set for private traders, the pilot project could fail,” writes RBK. With private freight trains running in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, admission of private freight trains on UZ tracks is a Ukrainian obligation under the EU Association Agreement.
To take tractor-trailer trucks off the roads, Ukrzaliznytsia plans to offer shippers the option of sending semi-trailers to the EU on flatbed wagons, Volodymyr Zhmak, the railroad’s CEO, tells Mintrans news site. A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle and without the tractor. By hauling semi-trailers across borders, Zhmak said the railroad would cut the wear and tear on roads, reduce lines at border posts, and ease the problem of Poland restricting permits for Ukrainian truckers.
Five or six “large domestic and foreign investors are ready to participate” in leasing some of Ukraine’s busiest rail stations, Alexander Pertsovsky, head of UZ’s ‘Passenger Company,’ tells Mintrans. After holding conference calls with investors, UZ is preparing concession agreements, with the advice of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. There are seven stations that are to be leased in concession: the main passenger stations of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro, and Chop, Khmelnytsky, Mykolaiv and Vinnytsia. UZ predicts it will make $2 million a year from concession payments. At smaller stations, rental spaces for ATMs, snack bars and shops are to be leased through ProZorro.Sales, he said.
Thefts of parts from private company wagons in UZ workshops has become so bad that Lemtrans has started painting its removable parts a signature lemon yellow, reported Rail.Insider. Lemtrans, the owner of the largest private fleet of freight wagons in Ukraine, also uses GPS technology to track cars. Through August, thieves hit their wagons more than 400 times. Quadro Center, another major shipper, said thieves have stolen parts from one quarter of the company’s fleet since 2019. Last month alone, UZ reported 1,156 cases of thefts of parts from freight wagons.
VR Capital, the London-based emerging markets hedge fund, is pursuing litigation against Ukrzaliznytsia over a $300 million package of defaulted loans that VR acquired two years ago at auction from Russian lender Prominvestbank, reports Reorg Research, a London financial intelligence provider. The loans had an initial principal of $153 million, but since they matured in 2015 and 2016, the accumulated fees, penalties and interest have risen to an almost equal amount. Reporter Jack Laurenson wrote that UZ has entered into talks with VR and recognizes that VR now holds the debt.
ICU wrote of last week’s auction: “Foreigners are monitoring the market and watching the trend in rate increases, waiting for the optimal time to make new investments. That could be when the increase in rates stops and the hryvnia exchange rate appears to bottom out. We can expect foreigners to again purchase new issues, on the background of increase in the appetite of portfolio investors to EM assets.”
The Central Bank is expected to keep Ukraine’s prime rate at the historically low level of 6% at Thursday’s policy meeting. In a Reuters poll of 15 analysts, 14 predicted that the National Bank of Ukraine will keep the rate at 6%, the level attained last June. Since then, Ukraine’s inflation has fallen, hitting 2.6% yoy in October. The analysts predicted that more government spending and a high minimum wage will push up Ukraine’s to 4.2% at the end of this year, and to 6.1% at the end of next year.
Betting on the growth of e-commerce, Ukrposhta plans to start building a 600,000 square meters of mail and package sorting centers next year. Largely funded with EBRD and European Investment Bank loans totalling 93 million euros, the state post office plans to build 62 depots and eight 8 sorting hubs, in: Kyiv (on the left and right banks), in Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Khmelnitskiy, Odesa and Pokrovsk, the rail hub city in Donetsk region. The first tenders will go out in coming days, Igor Suhodubovsky, head of construction for Ukrposhta, told a logistics conference yesterday.
Foreign tourists visiting Kyiv this year fell to 300,000 — 15% of the 2 million who visited last year. With national tourists not filling the gap, Kyiv’s tourism industry — hotel, restaurants, nightclubs and tour operators — lost $1 billion this year, estimated Maryna Radova, head of Tourism and Promotion of the Kyiv City Administration. Similarly, the hotel tourism tax revenues has fallen almost in half, to $1.2 million, she told a forum at Ukrinform, “Restoration of the Tourism Sector in Kyiv Amid a Pandemic.”
Wizz Air restores this month many flights to the EU from Kyiv Sikorsly, Kharkiv and Lviv, reports the Hungary-based low-cost carrier. If a flight is cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions, Wizz Air says it will refund 125% of the paid fare. In coming days, these flights resume: from Kyiv to Copenhagen, Pardubice, Billun, Vienna, Krakow, Lisbon, Hamburg, Budapest, Naples, Poznan, Bratislava, Katowice; from Lviv to Berlin, Szczecin, Bratislava, Pardubice, Vilniusl; and from Kharkiv to Krakow, Dortmund, Vienna, Gdansk and Wroclaw.
Preparing to lay off 150 pilots, UIA appealed to President Zelenskiy yesterday,asking for a low interest loan and relief on debts owed to Ukraine’s air traffic control agency and to Boryspil Aiport, UIA’s hub. “UIA, like other air carriers of Ukraine, require immediate measures of state support, which will allow them to survive until the resumption of demand and opportunities for international air transportation,” the airline’s executives wrote in a letter to Zelenskiy. UIA said its passenger traffic is running at 85% of 2019 levels and that it already has laid off 1,000 employees. Ukraine’s national flag carrier, plans to restore much of its route network in April, aiming to carry in 2021 64% of the passengers it carried in 2019.
Since April, UIA has processed 60% of demands for ticket returns, refunding $22 million, the airline reports. Another 56,000 requests await processing. As part of personnel cuts at UIA, the airline’s telephone information center has been closed.
UIA’s sister airline, Windrose Airlines continues its expansion into the Balkans, starting flights this week from Kyiv Boryspil to Belgrade, Serbia, and from Boryspil to Skopje, North Macedonia. In recent weeks, Windrose started flights from Boryspil to: Ljubljana, Slovenia; to Zagreb, Croatia; and to Podgorica, Montenegro. Windrose uses its newly expanded fleet of commuter planes — Embraer 145s and ATR 72-600s.
With snow forecast for much of Ukraine tomorrow, 99% of the 2021 harvest is in, reported the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Agriculture. Harvested from 24 million hectares, an expanse the size of Britain, Ukraine’s harvest is expected to be well below last year’s bumper crop. Due to drought, the corn crop could be down by 25% and the sugar beet crop down by 30%.
Measured in volume, grain exports are down by 14% — to 20 million tons — since the marketing year started July 1. Corn exports are down 26% yoy, to 6 million tons. Wheat exports are down 11.5%, to 12 million tons. By June 2021, the government predicted that Ukraine’s grain exports could be down 17% over last year’s record exports of 57 million tons.
World prices are boosting Ukraine’s earnings from the export of food, the nation’s biggest foreign currency earner. World food prices rose in October and November, hitting their highest levels in six years, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The FAO said that November world food prices are 6% higher than one year earlier. One major Ukrainian export, vegetable oil, jumped 14.5% in November alone, hitting the highest price since March 2014. Cereal prices are up 20% compared to one year ago. Export prices for Ukrainian corn are up 36% yoy.
Capital investment in farming dropped by 43% during the first three quarters, to just below $1 billion, reported the Institute of Agrarian Economics. Citing State Statistics Data, the Institute notes the investment collapse in farming came as overall capital investment in Ukraine fell by 35% yoy, to just under $10 billion for the January-September period.
The Finance Ministry raised all its hryvnia bond yields above 10% yesterday and succeeded in selling six times more paper than one week earlier. At yesterday’s auction, hryvnia bond yields went up by 11 basis points to 30 basis points, according to a Finance Ministry post on Facebook. To draw demand the Ministry also offered a full range of six hryvnia bonds — 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 4 years and 5 years.
Of the $560 million raised, about one third was from the sale of 1-year dollar bonds, which carried an average weighted yield of 3.79%. By contrast, 1-year hryvnia bonds carried a yield of 11.22% With the government short of money to cover the budget deficit, investors expect large bond sales — domestically and abroad.
“All over the world, river transportation is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way of delivering goods,” Artem Kovalev, Rada member and chief author of the law, wrote on Facebook. “Ukraine has a huge potential for the development of water transport, but now less than 1% of all goods are transported by the river (in the EU it is 7%). At the same time, the Danube and Dnipro are included in five largest rivers in Europe.”
Renewal of the Dnipro is expected to revive two Soviet era economic activities: shipbuilding and river cruise tourism. Due to global warming, the Dnipro’s ice-free shipping season seems to be expanding — to nine months. President Zelenskiy, a promoter of the bill, said he would sign the legislation soon.
Ukraine wants to start free trade talks next year with a host of countries, led by its largest trading partner, China, Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Trade Representative, told Evropeiska Pravda. “Currently, the access of our products to the Chinese market is subject to higher duties than Chinese products to us,” he said, referring to a trade relationship that totalled $9.4 through August.
Ukraine would like to reopen and liberalise the UK-Ukraine agreement that was signed two months ago in London, a rushed deal designed to beat the December 31 Brexit deadline. Also on the list are countries with major trade deficits with Ukraine due to food exports: Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco and Vietnam. The Ukraine-Israel free trade agreement enters into effect on Jan. 1.
Even without a UK-Ukraine trade pact renegotiation, Ukrainian food exporters are showing “great interest” in the expanded duty-free access to the British market, Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba told Interfax-Ukraine after a bilateral briefing on trade opportunities. Furniture manufacturers have gone on two trade missions to Britain recently, he said. He added: “ Even Ukrainian manufacturers of Christmas tree decorations are now interested in the British market.”
Helped by cheaper energy import prices, Ukraine’s trade deficit in goods is running at half the level of last year, reported the State Customs Service. Through November, the trade deficit was $3.93 billion, down from $8.15 billion recorded during the first 10 months of last year. Year over year, exports were down 3.5%, while imports were down 10.8%.
Dragon Capital has acquired Lviv Industrial Park located on a 23.5-hectare land plot on the M10 highway, 60 km east of the Polish border. Five years ago, CTP, the largest developer and operator of warehouses and industrial parks in Central and Eastern Europe, bought the site — the Czech company’s first foray into the former Soviet Union. For Dragon, the Lviv site complements their 49-hectare site on the Kyiv-Zhytomyr highway where an industrial park is in the planning stages. “We are ready to start construction of new Class A facilities in our industrial parks in the coming years,” says Dragon CEO Tomas Fiala.
The ban on shopping during three weekends in November cost Ukrainian shopping malls about $250 million, the Ukrainian Council of Shopping Centers told Interfax-Ukraine. The 30-40% drop in weekend sales was partially offset by 10-20% increases on Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Epicenter, one of the nation’s largest retailers, lost 750,000 weekend visits and $35 million in weekend sales, says Vladimir Goncharov, Epicenter’s director of retail trade. The drop in sales will ripple through the economy effecting 5,000 suppliers, largely Ukrainian, and sales tax payments.
“Business without Barriers” is a movement promoted by First Lady Olena Zelenska to reduce the physical and psychological barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating in the work force and society at large. A declaration of support was signed this week by representatives of: Ukrposhta, Oschadbank, Ukrzaliznytsia, Auchan, 1+1 Media, DTEK, Socar, work.ua, ATB, and Danone. Ukrzaliznytsia said it is making stations, platforms and trains easier for travellers in wheelchairs, the elderly and parents with small children.
DTEK says that almost 3,000 of its 70,000 employees have disabilities, “We are actively introducing the best services for our clients so that our services are as accessible as possible,” says DTEK CEO Maxim Timchenko. Yesterday, DTEK, the largest private investor in Ukraine’s energy sector, became Ukraine’s first company to join ‘The Valuable 500,’ an international movement dedicated to improving the integration of employees and clients with disabilities.
After 12 years of discussion, the Rada yesterday passed a river development bill designed to triple cargo carried on the Dnipro to 30 million tons by 2025. Ships will pass free through river’s six locks. To modernize the aging river gates, an ‘Inland Waterways Fund’ will be created, funded largely by excise taxes on fuel. During the late Soviet era, 60 million tons of cargo moved annually on the Dnipro.
A revitalised working river will generate an extra $500 million in economic activity, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krikliy said on his Telegram account. He added that for each 1 million tons of cargo carried on the river, Ukraine can save $35 million in road repairs.
Ukrainians can look forward to a normal shopping this weekend and, probably through Friday December 25, Catholic Christmas. Prime Minister Shmygal said November’s weekend shopping bans had cut the spread of the coronavirus.
Yesterday morning, 13,141 new cases were announced, down from a daily average of 16,500 late last week. However, in Kyiv Mayor Klitschko said yesterday that a record 1,735 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed. Eight months after the first cases were confirmed in Ukraine, “about 3% of Ukraine’s population of Ukraine have already had COVID-19,” Deputy Health Minister Iryna Mykychak tells Telegraf media outlet.
With a big budget funding gap looming, Ukraine may tap the international Eurobond market for up $1 billion in short term financing, Prime Minister Shmygal told the Korrespondent news site. He asserts the IMF will announce the date of its review mission in coming days. This would indicate that the $5 billion Stand By Agreement signed six months ago is back on track. Shmygal also said the government could sell $2 billion worth of Hryvnia bonds in coming weeks. On Tuesday, the government sold $93 million worth of Hryvnia bonds.
Timothy Ash writes from London: “Surprised it took them so long given the strength of global beta which has seen Ukraine’s borrowing costs in the Eurobond market crash 200bps lower over the past month or so. The appetite for yield is so strong post US elections that people are willing to look beyond challenges in individual country stories – and in Ukraine’s case — challenges to the anti corruption agenda, which is stalling IMF lending…Markets may not be so forgiving in 2021, so they really need to use the window being provided by cheap global financing conditions to crack on with those much needed reforms. Not entirely sure why you would only do a six month issue – market feels open to 5Y or 10y deal, and not sure that six months down the line pricing will be much cheaper.”
Through October, Ukraine has attracted $221 million in new direct foreign investment — 5% of the $4.5 billion attracted during the first 10 months of last year, the National Bank of Ukraine reported yesterday. Similarly, reinvestment by foreigners also fell sharply during the same period: to $639 million, from $2.9 billion this time last year. The Central Bank reported that Foreign loans also plummeted to $219 million, from $640 million last year. Analysts put the blame on the coronavirus recession and on the stalling of Ukraine’s movement to clean up the judiciary and implement free market changes.