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Monday, August 25 – IMF Review Date Is Not Set

IMF Review Date Is Not Set…Reserves Hit New High.Miracle for Mykolaiv?....Ukraine’s G.I. Business Program…IKEA Boosts Goods…New Car Imports Down….No Combat Losses for 29 Days...
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

The IMF has yet to set a date for the review of the Standby Agreement, a review that was to be in September. IMF Ukraine representative Goesta Ljungman tells Hromadske that while “discussions on the implementation of the parameters and indicators of the liquidity program are ongoing, the The IMF has yet to set a date for the review of the Standby Agreement, a review that was to be in September. IMF Ukraine representative Goesta Ljungman tells Hromadske that while “discussions on the implementation of the parameters and indicators of the liquidity program are ongoing, the date of the IMF mission on the first revision of the program has not yet been determined.”

Ukraine received in June a first $2.1 billion tranche of what is to be a $5 billion loan program.

Prime Minister Shmygal says he expects Ukraine will receive the second tranche by the end of this year. Some economic analysts say the IMF switched to observation mode after President Zelenskiy unexpectedly switched the central bank leadership within a month of getting the first IMF tranche.

International reserves reached a new high this month at $28.8 billion, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. Boosted by the IMF tranche, this is the highest level in eight years.

Mykolaiv’s shipbuilding industry is to be revived with a government program designed to create 25,000 new jobs, President Zelenskiy and David Arakhamia, leader of the Servant of the People Rada, promised on a visit Friday to a city that was the Soviet center for shipbuilding in the Black Sea. “We want to restore the former glory of the city of shipbuilders,” Arakhamia said, referring to Mykolaiv whose modern history dates back to the creation of a Russian Navy shipyard in 1789.

The government promises “a national program to support shipbuilding, cheaper credit resources,” Arakhamia said. Later on Friday, Oleh Uruskyi, Minister for Strategic Industries visited the Okean shipyard in Mykolaiv, reported the company website.

Business education for combat veterans and soft loans for veteran-owned startups are government priorities, President Zelenskiy said during an International Volunteer and Veterans Forum in Kyiv. “It’s both military skills and the rules by which all successful companies exist,” he said. “One cannot ignore the experience of other countries, where many veterans are the founders of large, serious, powerful, well-known companies.”

With the minimum monthly wage set to rise to $182 (UAH 5,000) next Tuesday, Zelenskiy says the budget can “definitely support” the hike. On July 1, the minimum wage is to increase by 30%, to UAH 6,500, currently $237. Ukraine’s median monthly wage is $768.

Grain sales were down 18% yoy in July, reports UNIAN citing the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture. Due to bad weather, much of the harvest is late.

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal has transferred 50 million tons of slag to the government for the national road construction program, reports Interfax-Ukraine, citing the company. Earlier this year, Arcelor pushed the government to change regulations to allow construction of concrete roads with slag. Increasingly common across Europe, the use of crushed slag for road construction helps companies cut disposal costs. In turn it cuts costs for building concrete roads. So far this year, 100,000 cubic meters have been used to build roads in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia regions. The goal is to use almost 500,000 tons this year for roadbuilding.

Interpipe, Ukraine’s largest pipe and wheel producer, will redeem at par 97 million of its 2024 notes this week, according to the company.

IKEA Ukraine plans to offer 5,000 items in its first physical store in Kyiv, says Florian Melle, Ukraine director of Ikea. He said: “A city-format store will open in Kyiv without a food department and restaurant, but we strive to launch them as soon as possible.” Earlier this year, IKEA started operating an online store that proved so successful that the company struggled to keep up with orders. Ikea’s first physical store in Ukraine is to open in Kyiv’s Blockbuster Mall by the end of this year.

Energy traders imported 345,000 megawatts of electricity in the first quarter of 2020, reports NERC. The imported electricity was from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Belarus.

New car imports are down 36% y-o-y, reports Ukrinform citing Ukravtoprom. The average value of an imported new car is $19,300. Japanese vehicles are the most popular.

Passenger transport is down 56.2% y-o-y, reports the State Statistics Service. Rail was down 58.2%. Motor transport was down by 44.3%.

There have been no combat losses in the eastern regions for the past 29 days,  Zelenskiy said  during his Independence Day speech. “A year ago, I talked about how every morning starts with an SMS message from the General Staff of Ukraine. SMS about the number of wounded and dead for the past day on the front line. The numbers are different, but only one message makes the morning good: wounded – zero, dead – zero. Today, for the 29th day in a row, is a really good morning for me and our whole Ukraine. Yes, we face many new challenges. But today is 29 days since we have no combat losses in the east of Ukraine.”

From the Editor – After Monday’s Independence Day holiday, the Rada – and the Ukraine Business News — are back today. One example of constructive work the Rada can do is the simple legislation passed earlier this year authorizing the use of metallurgical slag for road building. An increasingly common practice in countries with steel industries, this recycling will cut into Ukraine’s slag mountains and help provide the nation with decent roads. Writing tonight from western Turkey, I see clearly how Turkey’s good roads generate economic development. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke

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Tuesday, August 18 – the biggest impact of strikes spreading across Belarus

Belarus Strikes May Starve Ukraine’s Roadbuilders of Asphalt...Belarus Eurobonds: Worst Performers of Emerging Markets...Ukraine’s Garage Sale: Government to Auction Leases for 4,262 Empty Buildings...A Rebound Coming? Ukraine Buys Back GDP Warrants...
James Brooke
by James Brooke
UBN Morning News is reported and written by James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow Bureau Chief

For Ukraine, the biggest impact of strikes spreading across Belarus may be a shortage of asphalt for President Zelenskiy’s $3 billion drive to pave 4,000 km of highways this year. Ukraine imports half of its asphalt in heated, liquid form from Belarus. “Objectively, there is nothing to replace Belarusian volumes — and this is half of the market,” Serhiy Kuyun, director of the A-95 Consulting Group, writes on his Facebook page. “Russian supplies are closed, and Ukrainian traders are just mastering imports by sea.”

Ukraine also gets about one third of its diesel and gasoline from Belarus. But the strikes and slowdowns will only result in a ‘hiccup’ for Ukrainian prices, Kuyun predicts. “First, we have been living with a huge surplus of diesel fuel and gasoline for half a year. Traders sell it to zero at best, the market is so overwhelmed. Second, the Ukrainian market is open for supplies from all sides.”

Most of Ukraine’s imports of Belarus petroleum products come from the Belarus’ largest refinery, in Mazyr, on the Pripyat River, 250 km north of Kyiv. According to Argus Media, it appears that Mazyr workers will be on a 3-hour lunchtime strike this week. At Naftan refinery, near Belarus’ northern border with Lithuania, workers are on strike. The refinery which is owned by Belneftekhim, was already shut down for scheduled maintenance.

On the IT front, Ukrainian IT companies are “already accepting individual divisions of IT companies in Belarus as guests,” Olha Kunichak, manager of the European Business Association’s IT Committee tells Interfax-Ukraine. “Ukrainian IT companies are ready to cooperate and help our northern neighbors.” To restrict protesters, the Belarus government has been shutting off the Internet. Ukraine started this summer a fast track program to grant work permits to foreign IT specialists. According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, Ukrainian universities only graduate 15-17,000 IT specialists annually, while the fast-growing sector needs 40,000 a year.

Belarus Eurobonds handed investors a loss of 5.1% this month, the worst performance in emerging markets, according to a Bloomberg Barclays index. Since the 2031 bonds were issued on June 25, the yield is up by one percentage point.

Ukraine is recalling its ambassador from Belarus to protest Lukashenko’s “repeated and groundless” statements against Ukraine, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said yesterday. President Lukashenko’s return to of Russia mercenaries who had fought on the separatist side in the Donbas war, “derailed the trust between our nations and inflicted a heavy blow upon our bilateral relations,” Kuleba said.

Leases for 4,262 empty buildings totaling 2.5 million square meters – or 10 times New York’s Empire State Building – will go up for electronic auction this fall under streamlined rules approved last week by the Cabinet of Ministers, announces Leonid Antonenko of the privatization department of the State Property Fund. The full of list of leases to auctioned by ProZorro.Sales includes: 1,070 offices, 837 warehouses, 566 factories, 61 spaces at airports, and six sites for renewable energy plants at Chornobyl. While much of the vacant space is in the big five cities, there are thousands of square meters up for lease in Cherkasy, Kropyvnytskyi, Mykolaiv, Rivne and Zaporizhia.

Ukraine ranks first in a ranking of 39 Eastern European and developing countries for public procurement transparency. Following 64 indicators for the Transparency Rating, the authors placed Ukraine at the top with a score of 97% and Tajikistan at the bottom with a score of 38%. Poland got  74%, Hungary 67% and the Czech Republic 65%. Russia and Belarus were not studied by the group, the Soros-funded Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information. For the last four years, all government purchases of goods worth more than $7,300 have to go through the ProZorro on line tendering system.

Ukraine’s Finance Ministry has repurchased about 10% of outstanding GDP-linked securities, the Finance Ministry announced Friday on the Irish Stock Exchange. Known as GDP warrants, the securities have payouts triggered by two consecutive years of GDP growth. By spending up to $300 million to quietly buy back these securities, the government may be expecting a post-Coronavirus growth bounce next year. After Ukraine’s economy GDP fell 11.4% in Q2, the central bank predicts that economy will shrink by 6% this year, and rebound by 4% next year.

Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy calculates that the purchase was at 90% of par and writes: “This is also a good signal for the holders of GDP warrants, as it indicates MinFin is anticipating large payments under the warrants in the mid-term.”

Timothy Ash writes: “Now most official forecasts have a 4% plus growth for 2021.With the changes at the [central bank], the Zelenskiy administration is going for a pro-growth agenda, which might mean lower rates, cheaper currency, perhaps looser fiscal – note minimum wage hikes.

In a sign the Corona-recession has eased, Ukraine’s electricity consumption in July was only 0.7% below last year’s level, according to Ukrenergo, the nation’s state power transmission company.  Industrial consumption was down 3.2% yoy, but household consumption was up 4.7% and consumption by chemical industries was up 15%.

The central bank expects to receive the second tranche from the IMF by the end of this year, Kyrylo Shevchenko, the new governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, says in an interview with RBK-Ukraina. The IMF approved the 18-month, $5 billion program on June 9, and the first tranche — $2.1 billion — was disbursed three days later. Release of the remaining $2.9 billion depends on four reviews. However, Shevchenko’s predecessor, Yakiv Smoliy quit on July 1, citing pressure from President Zelenskiy. Since then, talk of a September review has faded.

Last week, the central bank bought $223 million, strengthening the hryvnia mildly to UAH 27.3/$1. So far this year, the National Bank of Ukraine has bought $1 billion more than it sold, latest data show. Demand for dollars this summer has been weak as vacationers are largely bottled up inside the country, unable to take advantage of visa-free access to the EU.

Last year, Ukrainians made 26 million trips out of the country, while foreigners made 15 million trips here, according to the State Statistics Service. Tourism accounts for only 1.5% of Ukraine’s GDP, well below Belarus – 6.4% — and Georgia – 26.3%. To generate more inbound tourism, Ukraine has dropped visa requirements for Chinese tourists and allowed Indians, South Africans and Filipinos to apply for visas on line. “Simple arithmetic shows the advantages of visa liberalization: the average check of one Chinese tourist in Ukraine is about $950,” says SkyUp, Ukraine’s discount airline. After coronavirus and visa barriers drop, SkyUp mulls launching flights to: China, India, Bahrain Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

Reminder: UIA is offering two direct Kyiv-New York-Kyiv flights – next Monday Aug. 24, and the following Monday, Aug. 31. No additional New York flights are scheduled. Tickets only are available through the UIA site:  https://www.flyuia.com/ua/en/home.

From the Editor : In October 1991, I interviewed Stanislav Shushkevich, Belarus’ first president, who was then one month into the job. A smart man, Shushkevich has a doctorate in physics and was, oddly, chosen by authorities in Minsk to teach Russian to the American defector, Lee Harvey Oswald. Reporting for The New York Times, I asked Shushkevich a question of interest to my readers: “How many nuclear bombs do you have?” He responded: “I have no idea. Ask the Red Army.” Then, as in now, the biggest questions in Minsk are often answered 700 km to the east, in Moscow. This week, we may see whether Moscow props up Lukashenko for a few more years, or eases him into a sunny retirement at his hillside chalet above Sochi. With Best Regards Jim Brooke