As Euroconvention Global says, Georgia has the unique possibility to benefit from the disagreements between its neighbours. გლობალური ევროკონვენციის აზრით, საქართველოს აქვს უნიკალური შესაძლებლობა, ისარგებლოს მეზობლებთან უთანხმოებით.

As Euroconvention Global says, Georgia has the unique possibility to benefit from the disagreements between its neighbours. გლობალური ევროკონვენციის აზრით, საქართველოს აქვს უნიკალური შესაძლებლობა, ისარგებლოს მეზობლებთან უთანხმოებით.
19 January 2015

The FINANCIAL -- “Georgia has the unique possibility to benefit from the disagreements between its neighbours and to establish itself as a regional hub and oasis of stable economic and political environment. This can only add to the geographical attractiveness of the country and attract more foreign capital and business interests,” Tanguy de Craecker, Managing Director of Euroconvention Global, told The FINANCIAL.

On 5-6 February, 2015, Georgia will be hosting the leading regional event - the South Caucasus Infrastructure and New Energy Investment Summit, organized by Euroconvention Global. The event will be held in Expo Georgia’s international City Infrastructure Exhibition in Tbilisi, under the auspices of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Georgia.

“The natural resources of Georgia and its neighbours are yet to be explored. Especially when it comes to replacing traditional energy sources with renewable ones. This is the way the whole world is heading and Georgia is a country blessed with a unique mix of natural resources yet lacking and therefore in demand of a great deal of infrastructure for their further development,” said Craecker.

Q. Could you please tell us some of the main news of the Summit based on the key topics which are to be discussed at the event?

A. After the success of the Summit’s pilot edition in 2014 we were obliged to step up to the expectations of 2015. We at Euroconvention Global are rarely repeating events on an annual basis unless the host countries are among the most dynamically developed regions of the world. We pay great attention to the economic and political development and importance of the hosting countries and therefore the decision to return the South Caucasus Infrastructure & New Energy Investment Summit came very easily to us. This year we will try to hold discussions from a more global perspective. Pointing out the growing importance that the South Caucasus countries are gaining on the transportation map, we’ll speak about transcontinental energy corridors, transportation of goods and people between Asia and Europe through the regions developing infrastructure and constantly improving access to logistic services.

Q. There were many potential investors attending the Summit last year who were introduced to the potential of investing in Georgia in the fields of energy and hydro resources. Do you know if there have been some results and if any of the investors became interested in investing in Georgia?

A. If I could be allowed to make a note, the summit involved Georgia and its neighbours Azerbaijan and Armenia on an almost equal level. Out of those foreign investors most have shown and expressed equal business interest in the whole region. We do communicate with many companies (though not all) after they attend our events and we do try to know if they have gained any actual business out of it. We have a very particular example of one of our sponsors last year who is preparing to be part of a very big transport infrastructure project set to start in the next months. A number of companies who were present at the Summit last year are or will be participating in tenders for various projects.

Q. What did businesses gain from this summit? What were the biggest benefits for companies participating in the Summit?

A. I’d like to think and believe that people get opportunities when they attend a conference. Personally if I am a business executive then this is what I would like in the first place when I decide to attend such a forum. We promise our delegates exactly this - opportunities to meet and get introduced to people relevant to their business interest, opportunity to receive firsthand information and answers to their questions, opportunities to be seen and heard. The actual business outcome expected to come later is a result of all these factors. We had so many emails from companies and delegates after the programme in 2014 expressing satisfaction specifically from the business contacts made during the two days of the event.

Q. What will be the difference between this year’s summit and last year’s?

A. In the first place the programme itself. We don’t think that such a broad subject can be covered in a day and a half’s programme. There were topics which for one reason or another we didn’t include in the 2014 programme and are now bringing them up with the new agenda. If one opens both programmes they will be able to see very clearly what I mean. For example, we hope to emphasize the possibilities provided by the Black Sea ports development and their improving connections to the inside of the country as well as to the major transport rail and road corridors currently still in development in the whole region. For all of the rest I hope we will be able to see many new faces and names of foreign companies looking at the South Caucasus countries as an upcoming investment hotspot.

Q. The South Caucasus Infrastructure and New Energy Investment Summit will be held in Georgia soon. What is the background to this summit and why did you decide to hold this summit in Georgia this year?

A. The idea of this event developed in our minds over the last 3 years. You probably don’t know, but in 2009 Euroconvention hosted a similar event, also in Tbilisi. Back then we saw that the time was not yet right and we decided to keep a close eye on the development of the country and its neighbours. We also hosted a couple of events in Azerbaijan in 2011 and 2012 though not specifically on the same subject. As I mentioned earlier we do try to speak as much as possible with many of our partners - delegates, sponsors, speakers and all people involved in our forums around the world. We decide on our future projects mainly by what we hear. It is interesting to compare opinions and try to make the right decision for an event to happen or not. And one has to be able to listen and decide carefully, as no one is immune to failure. We at Euroconvention Global have had our share of mistakes over the almost 30 years of our existence, but I am glad to say that “South Caucasus Infrastructure & New Energy Investment Summit” is on the list of our successes.

Q. How important is it for Georgia to host this summit?

A. I think it is important and not only for this, but in principle for many such occasions that are aimed at the region. Georgia has the unique possibility to benefit from the disagreements between its neighbours and to establish itself as a regional hub and oasis of stable economic and political environment. This can only add to the geographical attractiveness of the country and attract more foreign capital and business interests.

Q. Who are the guests which will visit Georgia and attend the Summit?

A. I cannot share with you the names of the people and companies, as this is against the rules of the forum’s organization, but I can assure you that this year we are expecting quite an impressive pool of new names and companies. I am seeing more interest from Europe and companies who are calling us and telling us that they have contributed or participated in this or that project, that they advised another company on a project in the region and that they are now more and more interested in seeing and exploring more, so they are looking forward to coming. The forum is designed for rather top-level executives or so-called “decision-makers” and this is what we saw in 2014. There will be an interesting mix of companies in the various sectors included in the programme, so I am sure that everyone will find interesting people to meet and network with.

Q. Which country is distinguished by its potential in energy, urban infrastructure and other sectors in the region and what is the position of Georgia in this direction?

A. This would be a rather long answer and probably a subject for a whole other discussion. We know what Azerbaijan has and on what the country is building its economic prosperity. At the same time it is great to see that much of this money is being re-invested in the development of renewable energy sources and the country is running quite an ambitious programme that they can support financially almost on their own. Armenia is known for its hydropower potential and we see a lot of development in this sector there. Georgia is rather a mix, as it has a lot more to offer and benefit from, but mostly Georgia can add value to its strategic geographical position in the near future and establish itself as transport hub for energy, goods and people in the coming years.

Q. What are the most important infrastructural projects that Georgia should implement?

A. Georgia is definitely on the right path of its infrastructure development, but there’s a lot more work to be done together with its neighbours. In the first place I think that a country cannot achieve great results if it doesn’t have a coordinated strategy with its neighbouring countries. The development and capacity expansion of the Black Sea ports and their connectivity to major transport corridors in the region is crucial to continue with. I can also mention the Black Sea Energy Transmission Project and in general the further establishment of the country as an energy transportation hub.

Q. What are the investment opportunities in new energy power generation in Georgia?

A. From our perspective as organizers of the summit we really see the biggest interest coming from the hydro sector, but I believe there are opportunities everywhere in the renewable sector - solar, biomass, wind and geothermal energy. We have companies coming to the Summit with interest in each of these sectors. I believe there are excellent opportunities for technology providers in energy efficiency.

Q. Is Georgia still an economically stable country for doing business and what are the current risks for investors?

A. Of course. Georgia is on the right path to economic and, we also hope, political stability. If we didn’t believe in this then we wouldn’t be doing the Summit for the second year in a row. Investor risk is a factor in every emerging market and Georgia is no exception. The economic risk goes hand in hand with the political and we dare say that the investment environment and stability the Georgian Government has created is strong reason for optimism. Investors have limited possibilities to assess and evaluate risk through the standard financial and contractual mechanisms. Therefore they are really expecting to hear and see state officials taking the platform at such forums and addressing all concerns that foreign businessmen may have about investing in their countries. In this regard, I would like to express our gratitude to the Georgian Government and the ministries involved for taking such a proactive approach in the programme of the forum.

Q. Which fields are the most attractive for making investments in Georgia?

A. We have mentioned the energy and transport infrastructure, as well as the renewable energy sector, but we at Euroconvention Global are also actively involved and host very successful events in the healthcare infrastructure sector. With two summits hosted in Tbilisi on that subject behind us, we saw quite an amount of progress between the first one in 2011 and last year’s 2014 healthcare forum. We see huge development in the technological modernization of the sector and development of private clinics. We should also mention the pharmaceutical sector though it requires a very solid regulatory framework to attract foreign investors.

Q. Which are the most dynamic companies and sectors in the region and in Georgia so far, and why?

A. Apart from those we have already spoken about in this interview, we see the tourism sector as one with excellent potential for achieving great results and growth. The fact is that this sector is among the fastest growing of the last years together with the real estate industry. I would also mention the agriculture sector where Georgia has a great advantage due to its unique mix of nature and various microclimates giving the opportunity for the sector to grow in terms of production volume, but also in diversity of production. We see excellent opportunities for the growth export of Georgian agricultural products. We have to mention healthcare infrastructure where we expect to see very dynamic development. Retail and manufacturing are also among the sectors we expect to be in the scope of foreign investors’ interest and these are processes that are actually already happening, but of course we expect a lot more in terms of growth and investment.

Madona Gasanova, The FINANCIAL