Welcome to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council


Marketwire, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tue, August 25, 2009

BBC News Service, UK, Monday, August 21, 2009

The Brussels-brokered loan offer may encourage Kiev to clean up its corrupt gas sector.
Op-Ed: By Tomas Valasek, The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Mon, August 24, 2009

United Press International (UPI), Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009 

Inform Newsletter for the international community providing
views and analysis from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT)
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, August 25, 2009 

Interfax Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marketwire, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tue, August 25, 2009

KYIV, UKRAINE -- Cisco today announced that Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), the country's leading international carrier, has deployed Cisco® Unified Communications and Cisco Unified Contact Center Express solutions to improve collaboration within the company and better serve its international and domestic passengers.

UIA had a number of key business requirements for its modernized communications infrastructure: The airline needed to reduce communications costs in-country as well as internationally, to introduce a single-phone-number plan for all offices, to help remote employees be more efficient, and to improve customer service through a next-generation contact center. It also wanted to implement a flexible communications solution that could be expanded to meet the organization's needs.

Cisco Unified Communications uses the network as a platform for collaboration and combines all forms of business communications (voice, data and video) into a single integrated Internet Protocol (IP)-based solution.

The Cisco Unified Communications solution connects UIA employees working at the airline's head office in Kiev and at its hub at Kiev-Boryspil international airport, as well as all UIA representatives across Europe. Every day from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., two supervisors and 16 agents serve customers via the airline's in-house Cisco Unified Contact Center Express system.

Contact center agents answer inquiries about flight schedules, book tickets, track lost and delayed luggage and provide general information. After hours, an interactive voice response system is used to provide general information to callers and to record customer requests that are automatically followed up the next morning.

Savings are achieved through easier administration and maintenance, as UIA's information technology team supports the IP-based communications system instead of managing separate telephony and data networks. UIA's remote employees in various European locations use Cisco IP Communicator, a softphone application that enables computers to function like IP phones. Users who have access to the corporate network can make high-quality voice calls wherever they are.

The Cisco Unified Contact Center Express solution helped UIA to significantly increase customer service levels. Ninety-five percent of all incoming calls are now serviced within 20 seconds. In addition to sophisticated call routing and comprehensive contact management, the Cisco Unified Contact Center Express solution offers presence integration, workforce optimization and easy-to-use administration features.

The Mobile Supervisor provides real-time reports and helps track the quality of the contact center operations so that managers can improve its effectiveness and adjust the number of operators according to needs.

To further develop the contact center operation, UIA plans to offer multichannel contact possibilities via e-mail and the Web and to employ remote agents working from home.  The project was designed and implemented by TelecomService, a local systems integrator and a Cisco Premier Certified Partner.

Gennady Topor, leading IT engineer, Ukraine International Airlines, said, "Customer service in today's airline industry is a key differentiator, and therefore we wanted to put a contact center solution in place that enables us to provide the best service to our passengers. As a result of the project, we significantly reduced communications costs of our representatives abroad, and considerably improved customer service levels at our contact center. The funds we have saved in this way are now being invested into further improvements of services for our clients."

Oleg Bodnar, general manager, Cisco Ukraine, stated, "Many Ukrainian customers already fully understand the benefits of Cisco Unified Communications, when it comes to increasing personnel efficiency and reducing operational expenses. With this project, Ukraine International Airlines not only cut communication costs, but significantly improved customer satisfaction, which is key in today's highly competitive airline market."

Ukraine International Airlines is Ukraine's leading international carrier. Founded in 1992, UIA was one of the first businesses in Ukraine to attract foreign investment. UIA was the first airline in CIS to introduce Boeing 737 aircraft, to get JAR 145 certification and to be registered by IOSA. Today UIA's fleet consists of 18 modern Boeing 737 aircrafts.

The airline connects Ukraine with nearly 3,000 locations of the world, operating direct scheduled flights to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna, Zurich, Rome, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Helsinki, Dubai, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Tbilisi, Dubrovnik, Nice, Naples, Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, Kharkov, Lugansk, Uzhgorod, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Chernovtsy and Simferopol.

The base airport for UIA is Kiev-Boryspil (KBP).  Ukraine International Airlines shareholders are: State Property Fund of Ukraine - 61.6%, Austrian Airlines - 22.5%, Aer Cap - 6% and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) - 9.9%.  Detailed information about UIA is available at www.flyUIA.com

[NOTE: Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) is a member of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), www.usubc.org., Washington, D.C.]

Cisco is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at http://www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, please go to http://newsroom.cisco.com. Cisco equipment in Europe is supplied by Cisco Systems International BV, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cisco Systems, Inc.

Cisco, the Cisco logo, and Cisco Systems are registered trademarks or trademarks of Cisco Systems, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United States and certain other countries. All other trademarks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

[NOTE: Cisco Systems is a member of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), www.usubc.org., Washington, D.C.]

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BBC News Service, UK Monday, August 21, 2009

The landscape of western Ukraine feels like the land that time forgot. In the patchwork of tiny fields local farmers work as they have for generations - hay is cut with hand scythes, the carts which bring in the harvest and the ploughs that work the land are horse drawn.

It is a bucolic scene seemingly untouched by the struggle, violence and revolution which have so dominated the country's history. But now - once again - forces from far beyond these fields are at work. The world is getting hungrier and the old "wheat basket" of Eastern Europe is offering new opportunity.

You could call it the latest foreign invasion. No tanks this time, but a state-of-the-art agricultural army is on the move. In large swathes of the country fleets of ultra-modern combine harvesters are bringing in the harvest from new mega farms.

But it is not Ukrainian money and know-how which is driving this agricultural revolution. It is foreign governments and companies. The Libyans are negotiating for land here, as are the Russians and others. Many governments are looking to secure land overseas as a way to ensure the food supply to their country does not fail.

In this part of Ukraine it is the British, in the form of the company Landkom, who are making moves which are transforming the landscape, investing millions in machinery and infrastructure. This year the company will harvest 60,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukrainian land holdings totalling some hundred square

The company, like so many others, seems to have calculated that if predictions of global food shortages prove accurate over the coming decades, there will be big money in food production.

The founder and CEO of Landkom is a former RAF man turned entrepreneur, Richard Spinks. Mr Spinks is clearly immensely proud as he watches thousands of tonnes of wheat being harvested in the fields he has leased. Most of the agricultural land in Ukraine is broken up into tiny plots, each allocated to a family.

Mr Spinks explained that the field we were standing in would have originally been split into 190 different holdings. Landkom's success has been to negotiate thousands of lease deals to put together huge new farms.

 It is a sensitive issue, since by taking long leases on huge amounts of land the foreigners are actually taking control of Ukraine's famously fertile soil.
We met people in Ukraine who are unhappy about the situation. They do not reject technological advances but believe overseas investors should back Ukrainian farmers rather than setting up new "foreign" enterprises in their country.

"Every human being is a patriot of their own land, so yes it would be nice to have our own companies, we'd love that, but for right now it is what it is, whoever has got the money, they control the gain," says Stepan Ryzna, a local small holding farmer.

Others go further, condemning the deals done by foreign companies as a "land-grab", as rich countries and corporations snap up huge swathes of land in poor, developing countries.

Professor Tim Lang, one of the British government's leading food security advisers, is one such critic: "I feel sorry for Ukraine, here it is, it was colonised by the Russians, it was the grain basket for many, many years, it went downhill and now it is being asset stripped again by the West," he says.

"You could say that it is good for the Ukraine, that it is getting inside investment from rich countries, that its productivity will go up, that since the collapse of the Soviet Union it has not had the requisite investment, that at least under Stalinism there was a huge amount of that sort of investment - you can paint that picture - but I'm not convinced by that."

This assessment draws an angry response from Mr Spinks: "He needs to come and he needs to get his story straight before he makes opinions which are unfounded. First of all we lease every hectare of land, secondly we pay our lease payments, thirdly we don't bully people to lease us their land - they choose to lease us their land.

"The reasons they choose to lease us their land has nothing to do with money - it is an emotional desire to see their region go forward, that's all."
And it is clear that many Ukrainians do want to see greater development.

Vasili Pryza, head of the local farmers' union, told me he is not against foreign investment, but that ultimately it must be for the good of the Ukrainian people, not for overseas corporations: "In this region we are looking for people who will treat the land properly. We are looking for investors who will invest in things that are in our interest. "It doesn't matter to me if you are English, Chinese or American if foreigners do what is good for this place. That is just my personal opinion."

Hearts and minds are crucial here and Mr Spinks knows it. Landkom makes frequent donations to the local hospital, its corporate logo visible on the ambulance it funded.  "The key to the whole thing is, and if you get this right I think then you win, that it has to be better that we are in the community than if we're not, than if we went away," Mr Spinks explains.

But it is difficult territory which brings up big questions, and it is a global trend - Arab countries are buying up huge swathes of Africa, the Chinese are in Cambodia, and so on.

To some the idea of rich, powerful countries acquiring land in poor, underdeveloped ones is highly questionable. But while some call it "new colonialism" and "asset stripping" others defend the practice as a way of introducing new agricultural technology where it can make a real difference to the global food supply.

And, if the warnings of global food shortages are accurate, the basic terms of this debate may shift. The ethical emphasis then may not be on preserving the culture and autonomy of individual nations, but on increasing the food supply to a ravenous world. \

LINK: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8218104.stm
The Brussels-brokered loan offer may encourage Kiev to clean up its corrupt gas sector.

OP-Ed: By Tomas Valasek, The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Mon, August 24, 2009

The European Union just helped put together a consortium of international banks to offer Kiev up to $3.6 billion in loans to buy Russian gas. The idea is to prevent a repeat of the January 2009 crisis, when Moscow shut down gas deliveries to Ukraine after Kiev failed to pay its energy bills. As Ukraine transits 80% of Russian gas exports to the rest of Europe, the stoppage left many EU member states in the cold as well.

Ukraine has been hit hard by the economic crisis and is having even more trouble than usual paying for Russian gas. If Ukraine agrees to the terms of the loan, the money may help avert an immediate crisis and trigger badly needed Ukrainian reforms. At the same time, though, the funds will also "Europeanize" the next gas spat, potentially undermining EU-Ukrainian relations.

The money from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank will allow Ukraine to continue filling its gas reservoirs.

Although the gas will technically belong to Ukraine, EU governments—having arranged the loans to purchase it—will expect Ukraine to maintain uninterrupted supplies. If a crisis breaks out again and Kiev taps "European" gas for its own use, EU governments will be furious and the country's chances of EU membership will diminish.

The gas loans may thus turn out to be the most important test of Ukraine's EU fitness as Brussels will expect the country to live up to its contractual obligations to deliver gas to Europe. That would be a complete change from the crisis in January 2009, when the EU acted as a "concerned third party." Back then it treated the gas stoppage as a commercial and political dispute between Ukraine and Russia, helping to broker an agreement between the two parties

This will not be lost on Russia, which is not keen on Ukraine joining the EU. By turning off gas to Ukraine, Moscow could thus force on Kiev a draconian choice: Use stored gas to supply Europe and suffer economically or supply the domestic industry at the expense of EU customers and see its hopes of joining the bloc ruined.

Luckily for Kiev, Russia may now have more reason than ever to avoid another fight: Gazprom, the dominant Russian gas producer, lost over $1 billion in the January crisis, and its financial situation has worsened since then, mostly due to low gas prices on the back of the global financial crisis.

This also explains why Moscow has been a more constructive actor in recent months. It has paid in advance the entire annual fee for the rights to transit gas through Ukraine, and it is not claiming penalties (to which it is entitled) for Kiev taking fewer deliveries than it contracted.

But Russian energy maneuvers are only part of Kiev's problems. Gas is to Ukraine what cocaine was to Colombia—it has corrupted an entire generation of politicians, who grew rich skimming off profits from the gas trade. Billions are stolen through shady intermediaries who handle gas sales to Ukraine and yet more money goes missing in black trade that exploits price differences in gas retail prices on the Ukrainian market.

Trading companies buy gas ostensibly destined to poor households at cheaper, subsidized rates and then sell it to some steel smelter for a lot more. Moscow of course happily collaborates with Ukrainian politicians for a share of the booty. The EU increasingly questions whether Ukraine can ever be a reliable transit country, irrespective of what Russia does.

To dispel EU gas-supply fears, Ukraine has granted European monitors wide access to its gas facilities. But that will not be enough. Ukraine needs to reform its gas sector to end corruption and the expensive gas subsidies to households, which are bankrupting the country. If it fails to do so, the pressure will grow on Ukraine to allow even greater European control over its gas system.

EU officials have hinted at the possibility of forming a joint EU-Ukrainian consortium by encouraging EU gas companies to take a stake in Naftogaz, the country's oil and gas monopoly.

Europe's entry into a joint gas consortium, though, would be an imperfect solution. Those EU governments that are traditionally close to Moscow, such as Germany and Italy, would want to avoid a fight with Russia and probably insist that the country be included in the consortium.

But this would be tantamount to putting a fox in charge of a chicken coop. Russia has little regard for Ukrainian sovereignty, and it would surely try to use its control over the country's gas grid to undermine Ukraine's attempts to draw closer to the EU.

Far better for Ukraine to continue running its own gas pipelines. To that end, EU pressure on Ukraine to reform its gas laws to fight corruption and cut consumption would be more constructive than its direct involvement. The recent loan offer is a step in the right direction; it requires Ukraine to introduce reforms first in order to qualify for the money.

Kiev has of course failed to live up to similar reform pledges in the past. This time, things are different. Ukraine needs foreign money to keep the gas flowing. Also, until recently, Ukrainian leaders could semi-convincingly argue that reforms, which would raise domestic gas prices, should wait until the economy improves and until after presidential elections scheduled for January 2010.

But the World Bank is ready to spend part of its $500 million offer on mitigating the social impact of higher gas prices. So those concerns are no longer as relevant as they used to be.

The Ukrainian government has now started raising gas prices for households, although some subsidies remain. After the elections, there will be no more excuses for postponing further reforms. To remain solvent and truly autonomous, Ukraine needs to consume less gas and clean up its gas trading system.

As Europe could soon "own" part of Ukraine's gas reserves, a failure to reform could otherwise set up Kiev and Brussels for a serious showdown during the next gas spat and sink Ukraine's EU membership plans. Let's hope the EU-arranged loans will help concentrate minds in Kiev.

NOTE: Mr. Valasek is director of foreign policy and defence at the Center for European Reform.

LINK: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203550604574358630544395184.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

United Press International (UPI), Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009 

KIEV, Ukraine - With commitments from Azerbaijan, delivery of oil from the Odessa-Brody pipeline in Ukraine to markets in Belarus is a top priority, officials say.

In May, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told a council tasked with putting a Eurasian oil corridor into practice that Odessa-Brody should move in its intended direction toward Europe as soon as possible.

The 419-mile pipeline had run in the reverse direction toward Russia following supply concerns. The leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine agreed in 2008 to implement a Eurasian oil-transport corridor, which envisions expansions to Odessa-Brody to Poland and on to Europe.

The State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan and other partners had agreed to a test run on filling Odessa-Brody with Azeri oil. Ihor Likhovy, the Ukrainian envoy to Belarus, said with Azeri commitments for Odessa-Brody oil, Caspian deliveries to eastern European energy customers are a priority, the Interfax news agency in Ukraine reports.

"The Odessa-Brody project on Caspian oil supplies to the Baltic states has recently become more urgent," he said. Energy ties between Russia and Ukraine are tense following a January row that prompted Russian energy giant Gazprom to disrupt gas supplies for weeks. The pipeline carries around 105 million barrels of oil per year.

LINK: http://www.upi.com/Energy_Resources/2009/08/24/Odessa-Brody-to-supply-Belarus/UPI-63121251130526/
Inform Newsletter: For the international community providing
views and analysis from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT)
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, August 25, 2009
KYIV Ukraine’s economy is showing signs of a modest recovery as industrial output grew by 5 percent month on month in July. Yet official figures reveal that the economy shrunk 18 percent in the second quarter despite this representing a marked improvement over the 20.3 percent decline in the first quarter.
“We can certainly speak of signs of a stable improvement in the economy," said Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who, although cautious, welcomed the figures.
Industrial production declined by 26.7 percent year on year in July, compared to a drop of 30.4 percent over the first 7 months of the year. This improvement in fortunes is largely attributable to a faster than predicted rebound in China, with Ukraine’s steel output jumping 15 percent in response to demand from the Far East. Despite this record figure, steel output was down 40 percent for the 7 months to July compared with the same period in the prior year.
The speed of the rebound of the tiger economies has taken many analysts by surprise. When comparing the second quarter GDP with the first quarter at an annualised rate, China’s GDP grew by 15 percent, South Korea by nearly 10 percent, Singapore by a staggering 21 percent and Indonesia by 5 percent.

The Economist described the signs as a “lush jungle” rather than green shutes. And the positive news does not just come from Asia. France, Germany and Japan have all reported that they have come out of recession. 
This sense of a modest recovery has given analysts some cause for optimism that Ukraine’s economy will grow next year by up to the 3 percent. Bohdan Danylyshyn, Minister for the Economy, said, "Given that Ukraine's industry is highly integrated into global markets ...improvements in the industrial sectors of EU countries will stimulate demand for Ukrainian goods in the short term." 
While noting “the economic recovery is now on track,” Prime Minister Tymoshenko requested others “not to interfere in bringing the country out of the crisis.”  This reference was aimed at dissuading presidential candidates from working to prolong the crisis and prevent a recovery for purely political reasons.
Recently, President Viktor Yushchenko attempted to stymie the government by vetoing important budgets, whereas the Party of Regions blocked parliament, preventing the passage of bills needed to secure funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In order to comply with IMF conditions, the Cabinet of Ministers bypassed parliament by passing Cabinet resolutions to secure a $3.3 billion tranche payment from the $16.4 billion stand-by facility agreed with the IMF last October. To-date nearly $11 billion of this loan has been dispensed. 
Mr Yanukovych’s party has also blocked attempts to appoint a Finance Minister – a position that has been vacant since February. This is bizarre given that the government has been left to navigate through the bleakest economic recession since the 1930s without being able to fill this key post.
“We have a programme in place,” said the premier, “and for the sake of the nation and the prospects of ordinary citizens, we must not be impeded from implementing it.”
Despite indications of a possible recovery, Ukraine’s economy has taken a battering and the IMF predicts that this year Ukraine’s GDP contraction will be 14 percent. The World Bank believes growth next year with be 1 percent, while the government considers the recovery could be stronger with growth in 2010 of 3 percent, rising to 5 percent in the coming years.
Meanwhile the government is executing on its bank recapitalisation programme and the currency has stabilised at around UAH 8 to the dollar. Notwithstanding this, the hryvnia is likely to come under pressure in the coming months as billions of dollars of corporate debt matures and becomes payable.
“They are not out of the woods completely,” an American financier in Kyiv told Inform, “but things are picking up in certain quarters with some of the smaller investors coming back to the market. The signs of an improvement are there.”  [Inform Newsletter: Questions or comments? Email us at nlysova@beauty.net.ua]

Interfax Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, August 18, 2009

KYIV - The net growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ukraine January through June 2009 was estimated at $2.359 billion, which was 34.1% of the figure registered in the first half of 2008, the State Statistics Committee reported on Monday. Foreign investors in the first half of 2008 injected $2.7 billion in Ukraine's economy, while they withdrew $414 million.

The growth of investment in the first quarter was estimated at $820 million, whereas in the second quarter it was $1.88 billion. The overall amount of FDIs as of July 1, 2009, hit $37.966 billion, which was 6.6% up on the beginning of 2008. Investment per capita was $823.9, the source said.

According to the committee, foreign capital growth in the first half of 2009 was seen at companies whose core business is finance (by $861 million), real estate, leasing, engineering and entrepreneurial services (by $454.9 million), trade, repairs to cars, household products and personal goods (by $141.5 million), as well as at industrial companies (by $582 million), including at processing ones ($522.6 million).

At the committee said, invested in Ukraine were assets coming from 125 countries. The top ten investors accounting for over 81% of the overall FDIs were Cyprus ($8.064 billion), Germany ($6.531 billion), the Netherlands ($3.717 billion), Austria ($2.490 billion), the United Kingdom ($2.330 billion), Russia ($2.125 billion), France ($1.573 billion), the Untied States ($1.369 billion), the British Virgin Islands ($1.324 billion), and Sweden ($1.259 billion).

A total of $8.57 billion (22.6%) of total FDIs were invested in industrial companies, including $7.37 billion in the processing sectors and $1.05 billion in extracting sectors.

Among the processing sectors, FDI in chemical and petrochemical production grew by $207.8 million, and FDI in food, beverage and tobacco production soared by $106.1 million.

Among the processing sectors, $1.792 billion in FDI were invested in food, beverage and tobacco production, $1.406 billion in production of metals products, $1.052 billion in the engineering sector and $1.151 billion in the chemical and petrochemical sectors, and $758.3 million in production of other non-metal mineral products.

Financial institutions accumulated $8.016 billion (21.1%) in direct investment, for real estate, engineering and business services the amount was $4.069 billion (10.7%), and for trade, auto repairs, domestic appliances and personal items - $3.828 billion (10.1%).

A total of 17,900 Ukrainian companies reported that they had attracted FDI. As of July 1, 2009, Ukrainian companies received $6.15 billion in loans from direct investors.

The largest investment was received from Cyprus ($1.604 billion), the Netherlands ($722.5 million), France ($530.5 million), Germany ($509.8 million), Russia ($493 million), Britain ($241.3 million), Austria ($331.4 million), Poland ($181.5 million), Hungary ($239.3 million) and Sweden ($152.2 million).

As of July 2009 total amount of foreign direct investment made in Ukraine, including loan capital, was $44.115 billion. In H1, 2009 Ukraine made $25.9 million in direct investment in the economy of other countries, mainly in the form of monetary payments.

As of July 1, 2009 Ukraine made direct investment of $6.227 billion in other countries, including $5.945 billion in EU countries (95.5% of the total), $219.6 million in fellow CIS countries (3.5%) and other countries $62.2 million (1%). Ukraine made direct investment in 51 countries, particularly Cyprus.

Loans from Ukrainian direct investors totaled $123.4 million on July 1, 2009. Total direct investment in other countries, including loan capital, totaled $6.35 billion.
NOTE:  If you do not wish to be on the USUBC e-mail distribution list please write to usubc@usubc.org.
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director, Government Affairs,
Washington Office, SigmaBleyzer,
Emerging Markets Private Equity Investment Group;
President/CEO, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
Publisher & Editor, Action Ukraine Report (AUR)
1701 K Street, NW, Suite 903, Washington, D.C. 20006
Telephone: 202 437 4707; Fax: 202 223 1224
Ukraine Mobile: 380 50 689 2874
mwilliams@sigmableyzer.com; mwilliams@usubc.org
www.sigmableyzer.com; www.usubc.org