The Armenian branch of HSBC on October 4 announced that it will lend $50mn to Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA), under new ownership following the huge "Electric Yerevan" price protests two years ago. According to a press release, the loan forms part of a broader scheme to bring the country's main electric utility back to financial health.
While the Armenian electricity distribution and transmission systems require significant upgrades, it is nevertheless unexpected to see ENA's new owners to resort to large loans this soon.
In mid-2015, ENA was the source of the largest protests witnessed in Armenia for more than a decade when the utility regulator approved an electricity tariff hike the company requested. Demonstrators complained about mismanagement at the helm of the Russian-owned company, the effects of which were trickling down to consumers.
The ownership change saw ENA purchased by a business conglomerate of a Russian-Armenian tycoon, Samvel Karapetyan. The conglomerate embarked upon a financial plan to return the heavily indebted utility, which owed $220mn at the time it was sold, back to profit.
ENA's CEO, Karen Harutyunyan, said that the loan did not benefit from government guarantees and that it would help make the company "more reliable, stable and efficient", without specifying on which projects the loan would be spent.
HSBC Armenia is among the smaller banks in the country. It is a joint venture between HSBC International (70% stake) and offshore companies owned by local businesspeople.
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