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Georgia drives out the Kazakh gas workers2009-03-30 23:20
The Kazakh owners of "TbilGaz", "KazTransGaz", have taken exception to the grievances of the Georgian authorities towards TbilGaz's management. The foreign investor is declaring that its rights are being violated and wants to rid itself of this problematic asset. In the opinion of experts, Tbilisi's gas distribution network could be purchased by Russian capital.
The gas distribution company TbilGaz (its full name is KazTransGaz - Tbilisi), which has belonged to Kazakh businessmen since 2006, owes its creditors $40 million. On 16th March, the Georgian government appointed its own temporary manager of this joint-stock company. KasTransGaz reacted badly to this foreign interference, warning that they could appeal to the international courts of arbitration to protect their rights. The president of KazMunaiGaz (the sole shareholder of KazTransGaz), Kairgeldy Kabyldin, announced at a press conference that the debts were accrued before TbilGaz passed into Kazakh ownership. At the same time, the investor emphasized that he wanted to sell his Georgian assets if he is given back what he invested in the company's development.
In response, Georgia's Energy Minister, Aleksandr Khetaguri, declared that the head of KazMunaiGaz had been misinformed about the state of affairs within the Tbilisi company. According to the ministry, its debts to the Georgian oil and gas corporation for its fuel supplies were accrued from September to December 2008. Moreover, its Georgian partners had offered the Kazakhs the chance to restructure their debt, but KazTransGaz turned this down.
As far as the temporary manager is concerned, Khetaguri made a further assurance that this was not an attack on private property. According to him, the company's managers will be able to return to their duties as soon as TbilGaz pays off its debts. If the Kazakh company wants to sell its assets, that is its decision, said the minister. The government will not get involved in this.
KazTransGaz's management reported their desire to rid itself of the Tbilisi company back in the autumn. The company was complaining about financial problems caused by the non-payments of Georgian consumers. Now Kairgelda Kabyldin has confirmed this intention. But he emphasized that the buyer must pay not only the cost of the company itself, which was bought for $12.5 million three years ago, but also for the investment made in it.
According to the company's press office, KazTransGaz has spent about $100 million in modernizing and repairing Tbilisi's gas distribution system, and acquiring and installing gas meters.