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Hedge fund fights to halt $506 million claim in New York federal court

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A hedge fund has cited an underlying arbitration agreement as the basis for removing to federal court a lawsuit against it by Kazakhstan. The lawsuit accuses it of conspiring with Moldovan oil and gas investors to secure an allegedly fraudulent half-billion dollar arbitral award against the country.

Argentem Creek Partners and its founder and CEO, Daniel Chapman, told the New York federal court on Monday that the dispute relates to an arbitration clause contained in a “sharing agreement” with Moldovan investors Anatolie Stati and his son Gabriel Stati.

Kazakhstan alleges that the Statis stole money invested in the notes by engaging in fraudulently inflated transactions that stripped assets from KPM and TNG and put the money into their own pockets.

The alleged fraud includes a scheme by the Statis to inflate the value of their investment in a liquefied petroleum gas plant to influence the damages calculation undertaken by the arbitral tribunal.

The Statis won the $506.7 million award in 2013 after Kazakhstan seized their petroleum operations in the country, though Kazakhstan has accused the Statis of submitting false documents in the arbitration and inflating the value of their investment to influence the damages calculation undertaken by the tribunal.

Chapman and Argentem claim that means that the dispute falls under an arbitration clause in the sharing agreement with the Statis mandating that disputes be settled under the arbitration rules of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Norton Rose Fulbright partner Matthew H. Kirtland, representing Kazakhstan, characterized the move by Chapman and the Argentem Creek entities as a stalling tactic, saying they would not do so if they had a defence to the merits of the allegations.

He noted that, unlike New York federal courts, New York state courts allow parties to take written discovery before any preliminary motions are decided. Kazakhstan and Outrider have been engaging in such discovery, and Chapman wants to halt it, Kirtland alleged.

“This is a desperate effort by Chapman to try to stall the case, stop our clients’ ongoing discovery and avoid public litigation of Chapman’s complicity in the Stati fraud,” he said. “This is the second time Chapman has engaged in such improper tactics. The first was their failed injunction motion, which was flatly rejected by the Washington court.”

Kirtland is referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision last month nixing Argentem and Chapman’s bid to halt the New York litigation.

A spokesperson for Argentem Creek Partners said:

“For seven years Kazakhstan have bent over backwards to avoid paying this award. In the US courts, they have suffered multiple defeats, including an attempt at using RICO statutes to discredit the claimants. Their attempt at delaying discovery in the enforcement proceedings has failed. Now their attempts to lay false allegations against a foreign investor will fail, just as similar tactics have failed in other jurisdictions. This award is final, binding and non-appealable, and the Ministry of Justice need to accept that before irreparable damage is done to Kazakhstan’s reputation as a serious, modern, investor-friendly economy.”

In addition to Kazakhstan, the claims against Chapman and the Argentem Creek entities in the New York litigation are being pursued by another investor in the Stati projects, Outrider Management LLC.

Kazakhstan

President Tokayev focuses on economic diversification and greener economy at Foreign Investors’ Council

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Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured) spoke about the need for greater economic diversification and greener solutions in the economy at the 33rd session of the Foreign Investors’ Council hosted June 10 by the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, reported the Akorda press service, writes Assel Satubaldina in Business.President Tokayev and senior officials during the meeting. Photo credit: Akorda press service

The session was attended by senior Kazakh officials, heads of large multinational companies, heads of government agencies and representatives of international organizations.

The council that consists of heads of 37 large transnational companies and international organizations as well as heads of key ministries has served as an important platform for connecting major foreign investors in Kazakhstan and the government and helping the nation to improve the investment climate.  

This year’s meeting focused on boosting noncommodity exports as well as post-crisis tax incentives, human capital development, subsoil use and digitization. 

“Kazakhstan, as an economic system, cannot rely only on domestic investment, domestic demand and export of raw materials. Our country will continue the policy to ensure the most favorable environment to attract quality foreign investments. We are determined to maintain our leadership in the region and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS),” said Tokayev in his opening remarks. 

He stressed the need to develop exports of processed products, which, as he described, is a guarantee against volatile prices for raw materials, an indicator of the economy’s capacity to produce quality demanded goods and services.

Over the past year, global trade suffered from dramatic losses. Kazakhstan’s foreign trade turnover was down 13 percent last year amounting to $85 billion. 

Despite this downward trend, Kazakhstan’s noncommodity exports showed a lesser decrease of 2.8 percent to $15 billion and foreign direct investments made $18 billion. 

Last year saw the implementation of 41 investment projects worth $1.6 billion and involving foreign investors. 

“As the global economy recovers, Kazakhstan is also on its path to economic recovery. Our government forecasts the growth to be at least 3.5 percent and we expect the possibility of higher growth,” said Tokayev. From L to R: Kazakh PM Askar Mamin, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi and Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov. Photo credit: Akorda press service.

Exports remain a priority for the Kazakh economy, said Tokayev, noting that the utmost potential is yet to be unlocked for Kazakhstan. 

The target for Central Asia’s largest economy is $41 billion of noncommodity exports by 2025. To support this target, Kazakhstan allocated nearly $1.2 billion. 

Tokayev agreed with the Asian Development Bank proposal to digitize the export support system.

“We have to agree that digital transformation reduces trade costs, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. The Ministry of Trade (and Integration) and Digital Development (Innovations and Aerospace Industry) should formulate proposals together with the Asian Development Bank,” said Tokayev.

Boosting agricultural exports

The participants noted Kazakhstan could benefit from developing and promoting agricultural exports. Vast natural resources allow the country to be a world leader in the exports of agricultural products, but more could be done. 

Ashok Lavasa, Vice-President for Private Sector Operations and Public-Private Partnerships at the Asian Development Bank, said that the sector could serve as a driver of economic growth. Ashok Lavasa from the ADB during a video conference. Photo credit: Akorda press service

“The agribusiness sector is crucial to enabling more economic growth, job creation, and economic diversification. While agribusiness has enjoyed substantial government subsidies, this has yet to lead to substantive gains in productivity. The sector’s competitiveness and access to market-based financing with suitable tenors should be enhanced,” he said. 

Greater railway connectivity 

During the session, Tokayev also spoke about the need to boost Kazakhstan’s railway system. In 2020, the volume of transit rail transportation grew by 17 percent.  

Five international railway corridors pass through the territory of Kazakhstan, which gives an opportunity to the country to capitalize on its strategic geographic location.

91 percent of containers transported in 2020 through the territory of Kazakhstan accounted for the China-Europe-China route. 

“We can surely say that Kazakhstan has really become a key link in overland transportation between Asia and Europe. Kazakhstan is an important and reliable partner in implementing China’s Belt and Road project,” said Tokayev. 

But the efficiency and quality of transport and logistics services should be improved, including at Khorgos. 

Greener technologies 

Tokayev reaffirmed the country’s commitment to introducing cleaner technologies and accelerating the efforts as the country transitions to a green economy. 

Kazakhstan has great opportunities in this area, according to Andy Baldwin, EY Global Managing Partner – Client Service.

“In the context of the inevitable decarbonization and reorientation of investments in «clean» technologies, Kazakhstan has a unique opportunity to create and boost non-commodity exports. With the right modeling and development strategy, you can turn the changes taking place in the world to your advantage and be ready for them in order to remain competitive in the coming decades,” he said. The meeting participants. Photo credit: Akorda press service

Paving a way to sustainable goals could help Kazakhstan in its effort to boost non commodity exports, according to Joerg Bongartz, Deutsche Bank CEO for Northern and Eastern Europe, which could be done through the implementation of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles.

“ESG principles are key components of long-term value and business resiliency, as they are implemented in the strategy and measured on long-term development. In the last few years, investors around the world are increasingly paying attention not only to the financial and production performance of a company but also to the extent to which its activities correspond to the ESG principles,” said Bongartz.

Renewable energy

Last week, President Tokayev revised the country’s target – bringing the share of renewable energy in the nation’s total energy grid to 15 percent by 2030 – instead of the previous ten percent.

To achieve this goal, the national legislation should be changed, said Eurasian Resources Group Chair Alexander Mashkevich. Exempting power-generating organizations that use renewable energy sources and their direct consumers from power transmission services payments could be a solution. 

“This will not have a significant impact on the power transmission organizations and KEGOC (Kazakhstan’s major electricity operator), but it will give a significant boost to renewable energy development. In the future, given our country’s wealth of renewable energy resources (such as wind and solar), clean energy in various forms may become an export product of Kazakhstan, especially as part of the creation of a common energy market within the Eurasian Economic Union,” said Mashkevich

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7th EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Business Platform focused on transition to low-carbon and green technologies

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The EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Platform of dialogue on economic and business matters (Business Platform) held its 7th meeting in Nur-Sultan on 11 June, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

The event brought together representatives of business and EU Heads of Mission led by the Ambassador of the EU to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sven-Olov Carlsson. Visiting EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Peter Burian joined the event.

The High-level Business Platform complements the technical dialogue between the EU and Kazakhstan within the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in particular the Cooperation Committee in Trade Configuration, which took place in October 2020.  

The EU has committed to climate neutrality by 2050 and is fully translating the implementation of the Paris Agreement into legislation. Ambitious targets and decisive actions demonstrate that EU is and will remain to be a global leader in the transition to green economy. The climate challenge is inherently global, the EU is only responsibly for approximately 10% of all global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The EU expects from its partners to share a comparable level of ambition to fight climate change and is ready to deepen co-operation with Kazakhstan in this area, including exploring new opportunities for trade and investment.

The recent EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council welcomed the progress made in the framework of the Business Platform chaired by the Prime Minister Mamin. The Platform acknowledges the importance of the EU in Kazakhstan's external trade, and discussions on a range of issues contribute to attract more investment in Kazakhstan.

Background Information

The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), fully in force from 1 March 2020, aims at creating a better regulatory environment for businesses in areas such as trade in services, establishment and operation of companies, capital movements, raw materials and energy, intellectual property rights. It is a tool of regulatory convergence between Kazakhstan and the EU, with some “WTO plus” provisions, notably on public procurement. Even in a year as difficult as 2020, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s first trade partner and first foreign investor, and Kazakhstan remains the main trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. Total EU-Kazakhstan trade reached €18.6 billion in 2020, with EU imports worth €12.6bn and EU exports €5.9bn. The EU is by far Kazakhstan's first trading partner overall, representing 41% of total Kazakh exports.

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Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan to focus on economic diversification and a greener economy

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Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spoke about the need for greater economic diversification and greener solutions in the economy at the 33rd session of the Foreign Investors’ Council hosted on 10 June in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan.

The council consists of heads of 37 large transnational companies and international organizations as well as heads of key ministries has served as an important platform for connecting major foreign investors in Kazakhstan and the government and helping the nation to improve the investment climate. 

Over the past year, global trade suffered from dramatic losses. Kazakhstan’s foreign trade turnover was down 13 percent last year amounting to $85 billion.

Despite this downward trend, Kazakhstan’s non commodity exports showed a lesser decrease of 2.8 percent to $15 billion and foreign direct investments made $18 billion.

Last year saw the implementation of 41 investment projects worth $1.6 billion and involving foreign investors.

“As the global economy recovers, Kazakhstan is also on its path to economic recovery. Our government forecasts the growth to be at least 3.5 percent and we expect the possibility of higher growth,” said Tokayev.

During the session, Tokayev also spoke about the need to boost Kazakhstan’s railway system. In 2020, the volume of transit rail transportation grew by 17 percent. 

Five international railway corridors pass through the territory of Kazakhstan, which gives an opportunity to the country to capitalize on its strategic geographic location.

91 percent of containers transported in 2020 through the territory of Kazakhstan accounted for the China-Europe-China route.

“We can surely say that Kazakhstan has really become a key link in overland transportation between Asia and Europe. Kazakhstan is an important and reliable partner in implementing China’s Belt and Road project,” said Tokayev.

Tokayev also reaffirmed the country’s commitment to introducing cleaner technologies and accelerating the efforts as the country transitions to a green economy.

Also emphasising focussed on Transition to Low Carbon and Green Technologies,  Prime Minister Askar Mamin chaired the EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Platform of dialogue on economic and business matters (Business Platform) on 11 June.

The event brought together representatives of business and EU Heads of Mission led by the Ambassador of the EU to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sven-Olov Carlsson. Visiting EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Peter Burian joined the event.

The High-level Business Platform complements the technical dialogue between the EU and Kazakhstan within the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in particular the Cooperation Committee in Trade Configuration, which took place in October 2020. 

The EU has committed to climate neutrality by 2050 and is fully translating the implementation of the Paris Agreement into legislation. Ambitious targets and decisive actions demonstrate that EU is and will remain to be a global leader in the transition to green economy. The climate challenge is inherently global, the EU is only responsibly for approximately 10% of all global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The EU expects from its partners to share a comparable level of ambition to fight climate change and is ready to deepen cooperation with Kazakhstan in this area, including exploring new opportunities for trade and investment.

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