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AIR PRODUCTS: Investments into Uzbekistan Allied to Reforms

The main reason behind the choice of Uzbekistan by foreign investors is the significant transformation and steps taken by country’s administration to open the nation to the world and for investment.  Such was the opinion voiced by the president of a US-based company Air Products Seifi Ghasemi, who was received on August 8 for talks in Tashkent by Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan – Chairman of the Board of Uzbekneftegaz JSC Alisher Sultanov. Following that meeting, the American investor gave an interview to a number of Uzbek media.

- Mr. Ghasemi, please tell us more about your company.

- First of all, I would to say that it is a great honor for me to visit Uzbekistan. Air Products is an international oil and gas industrial company, which is one of the leading players in this field. We are an open company and have been operating for 75 years. The staff around the world is about 15 thousand people, and we operate in 50 countries. The market capitalization of the company stands currently at $ 35 billion. The main business of Air Products is the provision of services in the chemical, metallurgical and food industries.

Our strategy, naturally, is promotion and expansion. We recently conducted a fundamental study, and it was decided to focus on growth, that is, entering new markets, to be more precise, in China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Uzbekistan. The main reason for the choice of Uzbekistan in this region is the significant changes and the steps taken by the country’s leadership to open the nation to the world and for foreign investment.

Our model of activity does not imply the supply of equipment, that is, “came, sold and went away”. We aim to invest in a certain country for the long term. In this regard, Uzbekistan is a promising land and, as I said, you have all the conditions for successful business. With the arrival of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, enormous changes are taking place in the country, and all this affords confidence in the aptness of our decision. Air Products possesses serious technologies that can be very useful for the development of the oil and gas industry in your country, as well as for the metallurgical industry.

- During the 22nd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, earlier on May 24-26, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Uzbekneftegaz JSC and Air Products regarding cooperation in the framework of the project for the production of olefins using the methanol to olefins technology (MTO). What do you see as the prospect of joint implementation of the project?

- Indeed, I was fortunate to meet with Mr. Sultanov during the International Forum in St. Petersburg. We held preliminary discussions and signed a Memorandum of Understanding. And, as you can see, the result of that meeting is my visit to your country.

I am confident in the prospects of the project on MTO. In addition, we also discussed other schemes. We do not doubt that they are rather realistic, concrete and with a good future, and therefore are ready for more detailed cooperation.

- Air Products expressed interest in organizing production, use and distribution of industrial gases in Uzbekistan (including oxygen, nitrogen, argon, hydrogen, synthesis gas, etc.). The first meeting of the working group produced an agreement to study the market and conduct an audit of the production of industrial gases, followed by the elaboration of proposals. What are the terms of implementation of this audit? When do you plan to take a decision on the possibility of producing industrial gases in Uzbekistan?

- During our meetings at the state level, we said that the company is willing to invest in Uzbekistan a billion or more US dollars for the development of these industries and the creation of an industrial gas company that will be based in this country and provide services to neighboring nations, too. Therefore, we are in anticipation of this, and I am very grateful for such a warm welcome.

During the deliberations it was decided to set up a working group with the involvement of leading specialists from our company and your government to solve specific problems.

And just the other day we discussed in detail the moment that our working groups will have to study the existing opportunities on the territory of Uzbekistan, as well as conduct marketing research, draw up a roadmap how to realize and unite the existing potential of Uzbekistan with the proposals that we can realize together.

And we plan to return in two months to draw up further plans and actions.

- Does Air Products plan to consider other investment projects within the framework of Uzbekneftegaz activities? Are there any directions for enhancing the cooperation?

- As I already mentioned, we are currently considering the project of the MTO, which is very important and one of the largest. Also we are already participating in the GTL project, which is being built in Kashkadarya, by supporting the manufacturer of the air separation plant. And, as we have already agreed, the working group will devise a more detailed proposal based on the win-win model, which will be of interest to our companies and to both sides.

- What can you say about the current investment climate in Uzbekistan? In your opinion, are there any aspects that need to be addressed to attract investments to Uzbekistan?

- As I have said, we are very impressed with the reforms and ongoing initiatives of this country’s President aimed at improving the climate for business. In particular, I would like to especially note the reduction of the bureaucratic procedures, the opening of the Uzbek market, the eradication of corruption, as well as the liberalization of the currency. It is also important that we discussed with Mr. Sultanov direct investments in your country. We are also interested in taking part in various projects with many organizations in this country. I would like to emphasize that all these changes are very positive and give confidence that we can work and invest in Uzbekistan.

Press Service
Uzbekneftegaz JSC
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