Archive for April 25th, 2010

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Prince Andrew in Ukraine – International Trade and Investment

April 25, 2010

Well dear readers, Prince Andrew………that is the UK Prince Andrew…….in case there are a few…….visited Ukraine on Friday in his role as Special Representative for International Trade and Investment on the invitation of the Ukrainian Government.

No, I did not meet him…..I haven’t seen Prince Andrew since a garden party in York when he was there with the Queen back in the late 1980’s.  Eh?……Oh yes, I did meet him and the Queen then.  I have met the Queen a few times actually…….once in London and several times in York at either Garden Parties or having a day or two at the Ebor meet.  I know, I know, what are they doing spending their time with low-life like me?  The answer is a long story which we won’t go into today.

All I can say is I am pleased not to have been born into the Royal Family.  Garden Parties involve an aweful lot of standing around nibbling on food and talking about many things……..which are completely inconsequential.  To do it as often as they do it can only be a chore……..seriously, it is not fun if it is done often!

Anyway, back to Prince Andrew being in Kyiv.

What was the point?

Well obviously as far as Kyiv is concerned, it is another high profile visitor and the credibility factor on the international stage will be maximised of course.

For the UK though, what does it do?

The UK business and investment in Ukraine is nowhere near as active as it should be……..certainly when it comes to internationally recognised “names” on the ground.  When it comes to the hoy polloy like me, quietly doing “very well thank you” then there is a bigger presence……but still not that big…….and compared to other nations, it is almost non-existant when it comes to people on the ground here.

Ukraine’s economy is heavily biased towards manufactoring of various sorts (and agriculture).  The UK economy is very much more “service orientated” as opposed to manufacturing. 

It does not take a genius to work out that without a good service industry, manufacuting suffers by way of sales.  It also does not take a genius that a good service industry needs clients to “service”.

There are a few steel producers…….five actually……who are listed on the LME for example……but there are much more than five steel producers.  I am good friends with a steel mill owner in Dnepropetrovsk for example who is not LME listed.  Apart from the Ukrainian market, his main markets are China and Turkey.

Why is he not LME listed?  There are several reasons, firstly he gets a higher price for his steel from China and Turkey than what is traded on the LME……..but more importantly, he does not speak English at all, is way too busy (as he is politically active in Kyiv as well) to struggle through the registration forms in English for the LME and jump through the relatively few hoops required to gain LME registration.

He has, since we became friends, managed to sell more materials as I am not unknown to a few serious buyers around the globe……and of course can speak Russian adequately and English……..also adequately. 

This proves there is a space for the service sector in Ukraine as provided by the UK.  That said, there needs to be a very large degree of “flexibility” from a service sector point of view when dealing with Ukrainian manufacturing………particulary in explaing the financial nuances.

I have also managed to get tens of millions of investment for people here for hard asset projects with the money coming from Germany, Cyprus…..well Cyprus registered companies……Greece, Austria, USA and Holland in Ukraine.

How much have I brought into Ukraine from my own nation of the UK?  Aside from what I have spent here…….absolutely nothing!  Seriously……nothing!

Now I do not live in Kyiv and I tend not to engage with other Expats here.  I do not have a pompus title or earth shattering email address that you simply must open if you get an email from me………and yet I have a very influential set of political and business friends here because I have managed to get some people to part with their cash in Ukraine.

Why, if I can get investors from Europe and the USA to part with their money here, have I managed to get sweet FA from my own nation?  How do these people manage to find me when those in the UK don’t?

Is it that the UK is unneccessarily adverse to a market that has not failed others I have introduced?  Is it that the UK sees nothing outside of Kyiv?  Landkom would seem to break the mould for investment outside of Kyiv but that was done through the will of people here on the ground.  Would it have happened if the decision had been down to a pencil pusher sat in an office in Blighty?

Now Prince Andrew himself will not bring UK investment into Ukraine, but he will highlight Ukraine to the UK business community once again.

It is quite easy to dismiss such visits as “jollies” which have no real effect on the UK or Ukraine……other than a nice luncheon and a chat……similar to Garden Parties……..but it is the publicity that counts here for both sides of this bilateral visit.

Even if one more UK company comes to Ukraine……..or even invests a few million from EC1…….the trip will have achieved something…….even if that investment foolishly remains Kyiv-centric ignoring the rest of Ukraine.

Maybe I get more done from other European countries because there are 17 Consuls in Odessa, many of which are European.  Historically, for example, the Greek Consul here in Odessa has been very active for their potential investors.  When investors have gone to their Consul here with specific interests in “X” assets, the Consul know who will know about such assets……..and the good ones are always “off market” and not in the domain of public knowledge.

Is this why I have not attracted any investment from the UK in Odessa, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk or Lviv?  Is it because we have no presence outside of Kyiv?  To be fair, when I told my father I was moving to Odessa, he could not see the sea on a Google map……..because he was looking at Odessa, Texas.

Given the extent of such knowledge, how many more UK investors view Ukraine as nothing more than Kyiv because that is the only place we have “official people”?  How many “official people” do we have in Kyiv who know what is happening in Lviv, Odessa or Donetsk in real time with regards to investment opporuntities over and above a dated wiki entry about that particualr region?

Is this why other nations are stealing a march on very good opportunities over and above the UK?

It is of course not my problem really as long as I find the occasional asset and investor matches when something good appears on the radar that will float the boat of certain investors interested in certain opporunities.  I have never been one to prostitute myself as an open market place anyway.

Still, it is good to read that Prince Andrew came here under the guise of this specific role and it is hoped that something will come for someone that will be mutually beneficial because of this visit…….as I am sure this will have been yet another tedious trip as far as he is concerned…….no different from Garden Parties in York.

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