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Tuesday, March 10

Ukraine Will Save on Its Oil Import Bill, but a World Recession Would Wipe out Gains...Ukraine Securities Return to Prices of Last Summer...Russia Faces ‘Black Tuesday’...Ukraine Poultry Exports Resume to EU...IT Propels Kyiv Office Expansion...1 Million More Cars for Ukraine...4G for Kyiv Metro.
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

Short term, Monday’s oil price crash will help Ukraine, a net energy importer. Oil and gas, Ukraine’s top import category, account for one quarter of Ukraine’s imports. In 2018, this import bill was $13 billion. On Monday, Brent fell 24% to $34.50 a barrel, nearly a 20-year low. European gas prices already are at 10-year lows.

Long term, a world recession could drag down prices for Ukraine’s main commodity exports – food and metals. A recession could come about from an economy battered by spreading coronavirus restrictions and the collapse in energy prices. Starting today, all of Italy is under lockdown as the government seeks to contain coronavirus. The Saudi-Russia feud that triggered the oil collapse shows no sign of easing.

Global investors’ flight to safety is returning Ukrainian securities to the levels of last summer. On Monday, the yield on Ukraine’s dollar bond due 2028 hit 8.31%, the highest since June and an increase of 183 basis points since Friday. Similarly, nominal prices of Ukraine’s GDP warrants fell 7.4% Monday to 82 cents, the lowest since August. The hryvnia devalued by 1% against the dollar, hitting 25.

This financial hurricane catches Ukraine without an Economy Minister or an Energy Minister. After last week’s Cabinet purge President Zelenskiy has yet to find replacements. Timothy Ash writes from London: “Who advised Zelenskiy to make this move at such a terrible time in global markets with coronavirus?”

The collapse in oil prices will weaken Russia, Ukraine’s geopolitical adversary. When Moscow trading starts today after the March 9 holiday, the ruble is expected to weaken beyond Monday’s 4% fall. In London trading Monday, several major Russian companies, including Gazprom, saw their share prices fall by one quarter. In contrast to previous Russian recessions, the economies of Russia and Ukraine are increasingly de-linked, a legacy of six years of war.

Viktor Avdiyenko writes in Apostrophe: “Monday can be called ‘black’ with full confidence. But Russia is most likely waiting for ‘Black Tuesday, when stock markets open there. Russian and foreign analysts predict that oil quotes may continue to fall – up to $20 a barrel, and the dollar will rise to 80 and, possibly, up to 100 rubles.”

Meanwhile back in Ukraine’s bricks and mortar economy:

Ukraine resumes poultry exports to the EU this week, ending a 6-week suspension due to the discovery of an avian flu case in Vinnytsia Region in mid-January. After imposing a blanket ban on poultry imports from Ukraine, the European Commission decided to zone the ban to a 10 km radius from the affected farm, Khutor. Ten other countries that imposed a ban — including Japan, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Moldova – are expected to follow the EU lead. “MHP resumed exports to the EU since March 7,” said Myronivsky Khliboproduct, the company responsible for most of Ukraine’s exports.

Last year, Ukraine increased its poultry meat exports by 26%, to a record, 414,000 tons, for $579 million, reports Ukraine’s Institute of Agricultural Economics. About one third of exports – 134,262 tons – went to the EU, making Ukraine the third largest supplier, after Brazil and Thailand, reports the European Commission. Last year, Ukraine was the world’s sixth largest producer — after Brazil, the US, the EU (with the UK), China and Turkey.

Chickens represent Ukraine’s animal husbandry bright spot, increasing by 2% y-o-y, to 211.5 million head on Feb. 1, reports the State Statistical Service. By contrast, the national cattle herd – milk cows and beef cows – were down 7% y-o-y to 3.1 million. Similarly, pigs were down 5.2%, to 5.6 million heads. Sheep and goats were down by 5.7%, to 1.2 million heads.

With demand for new office space strong in Kyiv, a record 255,000 square meters are to go on the market this year, more than double last year’s amount, according to a new Kyiv office research report by the CBRE Ukraine, the real estate consultancy. Reviewing office buildings under construction, CBRE estimates the same volume of new office space will come on the market in 2021 and 2022.

IT accounted for 44% of the new office space take up in Kyiv last year. This was followed by industry and energy with 25% and by co-working and temporary offices at 12%. With IT growing at 20% a year in Kyiv, CBRE predicts that the current office vacancy rate of 8.5% will stay roughly same through 2022. “If in the next two to three years, demand will correspond to the supply, then significant fluctuations in rental rates are not expected,” CBRE says. Due to IT companies demanding large floor plates – often 4,000 square meters or more — many office construction projects are fully pre-leased, reports CBRE.

Residential housing increased by 27% last year y-o-y, to 11 million square meters. Newly commissioned housing was almost evenly split between single family houses – 53% — and apartments – 47%. Of the total, 62% were in urban areas. Kyiv City led the nation, with 1.1 million new square meters.

The schedule for ‘big privatization’ tenders – over $10 million – is: Dnipro Hotel and United Mining and Chemical – May; Odesa Port-Side Chemical Plant – August; President Hotel – October; Electrotyazhmash – November; Centrenergo – December. To prepare for sale, the State Property Fund is installing new managers. It is unclear how much success the Fund is having in annulling ‘poison pill’ management contracts.

One million additional cars may hit Ukraine’s roads this year, if current registration figures hold up. In January and February, 61,000 used imports and 14,000 new imports were registered, reports UkrAvtoProm, the auto industry association. Car sales usually pick up during the course of the year.

Ukraine’s first concrete highway – a 160 km road used by Poltava grain trucks going to Dnipro – must be completed by the end of this year, President Zelenskiy vowed Thursday on a site visit. The north-south N-31 highway runs from Reshetilovka, Poltava Oblast to Dnipro, where there are road, rail and river connections to the Black Sea.

4G mobile service could be in all 52 stations of the Kyiv Metro by this time next year — if the Kyiv City Council sets tariffs as a meeting on Thursday, Alexander Komarov, Kyivstar CEO, said at a 4G test launch last week at Akademistechko station, the western terminus of the Red Line. With 4G, the total investment in the Metro by Ukraine’s big three mobile operators – Kyivstar, Vodaphone Ukraine, and lifecell – will total $20 million, estimated Oleksander Kogut, Kyivstar’s director for regulatory support. Last summer, Chinese technology giant Huawei won the tender to supply the mobile equipment for the 69 km largely underground system, which is used by 1.3 million riders every weekday.

From the Editor: With coronavirus and the oil price collapse threatening to push the global economy into a recession, it does not help that Ukraine has no Economy or Energy Minister. If the world turns to the IMF for help this spring, it does not help that Ukraine played footsy with the IMF for six months. If food riots and political fires break out around the world, Ukraine may discover it is priority number 38. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke jbrooke@ubn.news

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Monday, February 24

Global Warming Lengthens Road Construction Season...Turks Win Tender to Finish Zaporizhia Bridge...Russia’s ‘Inspections’ On Azov Cost Shippers $45 million...Kyiv Outshops Moscow...Price of Gas Imports to Drop in Half by Summer...Coal Mines to Close in 2020s
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

Thanks to Ukraine’s mild winter, highway workers fired up their bulldozers last week and started work on 34 projects in 14 regions, reports the press service of Ukravtodor. “A record early start was caused by favorable weather conditions,” reports the national highways agency. Working through November, Ukravtodor plans to spend a record $3.5 billion this year to upgrade 4,000 km of national roads and 2,500 km of local roads.

Turkish construction company Onur submitted a winning $488 million bid to complete the long unfinished bridge across the Dnipro at Zaporizhia, Ukravtodor reports on Facebook. The ProZorro tender called for building a 9 km highway with six interchanges and two major bridges — the highway connects Khortytsia island with the right and left banks of the river. The unfinished bridge has been a city landmark since construction first started 16 years ago. The Zelenskiy Administration wants the project completed by the end of 2022.

Turkish construction company Cengiz has signed a memorandum of cooperation to upgrade the M14 road between Mariupol and Nova Kakhkova to the level of an international highway. Planner see upgrading this 350 km east-west route as key to easing the isolation of Berdyansk and Mariupol, Ukraine’s main ports on the Azov.

Russia has detained 2,249 ships since Kerch Strait naval clash of November 2018, Andriy Klimenko, editor in chief of the BlackSeaNews portal. With each detention for ‘inspections’ lasting an average of four days, shippers have lost $45 million, Klymenko told a European Parliamentary delegation last week in Brussels. He said: “More than half of the ships subjected to unreasonable detentions in the Kerch Strait are related to the EU — having a European flag, shipowner, or port of destination.”

Confounding stereotypes, the Kyiv metro area has 50% more ‘high quality retail space’ per capita than the Moscow metro area, according to new statistics by UTG, the Ukraine real estate consultancy. Kyiv’s metro population of 3.7 million people has 1.8 million square meters of shopping space, or two people per square meter. Moscow’s metro population of 12.5 million people has 4 million square meters of shopping space, or three people per square meter.

With Russia’s economy stagnant, the gap may grow.  Without counting 21 Kyiv region malls in ‘concept’ stage, Kyiv is to add 550,000 new square meters – a 30% increase from today’s levels — by the end of next year. This would raise Kyiv’s retail saturation to 1.6 people per square meter, about double Moscow’s.

In Kyiv, 241,000 square meters of new retail space went on the market last year. This is 50% more than the 159,000 square meters of gross leasable area that went on the market in 2018. With the new supply, Kyiv’s overall retail vacancy rate is creeping up, hitting 7.8% in December. For regional malls, the vacancy rate is twice as high – 15.4%, reports UTG.

Ukraine’s retail sales are expected to grow by 10% this year, matching last’s growth. Growing three times as fast as GDP growth, retail is fueled by $1 billion a month in remittances from workers outside the country and the large portion of Ukraine’s economy – as much as 50% — that is off the books.

Supermarket chain Novus plans to open 10 new stores in Kyiv by the end of 2021, Ihor Landa, CEO of BT Invest Ukraine, the company that runs Novus, tells Interfax-Ukraine. He says the chain plans to expand because purchasing power is growing in greater Kyiv, now home to 10% of Ukraine’s population. Novus has 750 unfilled job vacancies.

For the first time, Ukrainian regional real estate projects will have their own stand at MIPIM, the leading European investment exhibition for the international real estate market. On show will be Ivano-Frankivsk’s Promrylad, a $25 million project to convert a Soviet era factory into modern multiuse space, says Anna Nestuly, Ukraine organizer of Ukraine’s delegation to the March 10-13 fair in Cannes. Counting the Kyiv city stand and the Ukraine regions stand, Ukraine’s delegation is to number 100, double the size of 2018. Participants include: Altis Holding, City One Development, DELTA Ukraine, Dragon Capital, Intergal Bud, Invest in Projects, Mandarin Plaza Group, Midland Development, Toronto-Kyiv, TK Property Management and UDP.

Ukraine should aim to triple IT workers, to 650,000, and nearly triple IT export revenue, to $13 billion a year, Kira Rudik, a leader of the Rada’s Digital Transformation Committee, said in Zaporizhia. “The IT industry is growing fast,” said Rudik, former CEO of Ring Ukraine, now owned by Amazon.  “We are an agrarian country. We have every chance to become a technological country. What we need to do to achieve this is increase export revenue to $13 billion a year.”

With talks over the green tariffs adrift for the last six months, Prime Minister Alexei Goncharuk said Friday: “We anticipate serious problems for our energy sector to serve such high obligations…We also do not stand and do not support a retrospective change in the rules.” With investments frozen for many new projects, investors say the government is not showing adequate political will to forge a consensus with industry on tariffs.

Ukraine’s import price of gas may drop in half this summer – to $80 per 1,000 cubic meters – predicts Oleksiy Orzhel, Energy and Environmental Protection Minister. In January, Ukraine’s average price of imported natural gas was $175.26, already a 10-year low. With production sharing agreements coming up for auction in coming months, Orzhel warns ultra-low prices will turn off investment. He said Friday: “It will be very difficult to make decisions to invest in production…many companies have frozen their further extraction investment projects.”

The government plans to close most of Ukraine’s coal mines during this decade, Minister Orzhel said Friday at a presentation of a revised draft Concept for a Green Energy Transition To 2050. The cutoff level for production will be $40 a ton. “Very few facilities will be competitive,” Orzhel said, outlining a policy that he predicts will outlast the five-year Zelenskiy Administration. Referring to the social impact, he said: “It will not be shock therapy, but gradual closures.”

Russian health officials took a Chinese woman with symptoms of a respiratory illness off a Kyiv-Moscow train in Bryansk, Russia. The woman was hospitalized in quarantine. She and five Ukrainian passengers in the rail car later tested negative for coronavirus. The rail car was decoupled from the Ukrzaliznytsia train, sanitized., and isolated.

From the Editor:  With Ukraine’s new public/private concessions to expand from ports to airports, to railroad stations and to toll highways, foreign investor interest will be high next month at the Ukrainian Transport Infrastructure Forum. The Ukraine Business News is proud to be a media sponsor for Forum which the Strategy Council will hold March 31 at Kyiv’s Premier Palace Hotel. The schedule can be found here. With Best Regards, Jim Brooke jbrooke@ubn.news