YEREVAN, SEPT. 30 (The Bulletin) – Russian state-owned electricity company Inter RAO sold the Armenian utility company Electric Networks of Armenia JSC (ENA) to Tashir Group, a Russian real estate holding owned by Armenian-born billionaire Samvel Karapetyan.
ENA is the sole owner of Armenia’s electricity distribution network giving Mr Karapetyan major influence in his homeland where electricity has become a political issue. This year Forbes Russia ranked him as the 26th richest person in Russia with an estimated wealth of $4b.
The sale provides Inter RAO with an exit from Armenia where it had wanted to increase the price of electricity by 17% to make up for the drop in the value of the dram currency. This price increase angered people and thousands demonstrated in Yerevan, forcing the government to promise to subsidise prices.
Rumours that Inter RAO were looking for a buyer had been circulating since mid-September and had focused on Mr Karapetyan. He confirmed the deal in short statement.
“Tashir Group takes full responsibility for the management of the ENA,” he said.
Mr Karapetyan is the brother of Karen, a member of the Armenian parliament.
He immediately promised that his purchase of ENA would not mean that electricity price rises were back on the agenda.
“On a parity basis with the government of Armenia, the company will [compensate part of] the difference between tariffs before and after indexation on Aug. 1 2015,” he said.
And the deal had the backing of the Armenian government which wanted to reduce anti-Russia sentiment that had built up over the proposed electricity price rises. Russia is a key ally of Armenia.
Armenian PM Hovil Abrahamyan said: “Meeting with our request, within a short period of time Tashir group negotiated and signed a contract with Inter RAO for the purchase of energy assets, for which we express our gratitude.”
Details of the deal were not disclosed. Tashir Group has a high profile in Armenia. It owns around three dozen shopping malls, hotels and office blocks in Russia and Armenia, including one which houses 400 birds, reptile and amphibians.
>>This story was first published in issue 250 of the weekly Conway Bulletin