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By Harry Tamrazian

LEDA Systems, a Texas-based leading supplier of semiconductor components, is to expand its business operations in Armenia by launching on-the-spot production of silicon chips, company officials announced Friday. Together with two business partners from Armenia and the United States, LEDA will invest $11 million in a new joint venture that will manufacture the chips designed for the telecommunications equipment, they told RFE/RL.

The creation of the new company called Amarast comes as another boost to the nascent IT sector in Armenia which has seen rapid growth in the past two years, owing to an influx of foreign investment. Its owners, apart from LEDA, are Khachatur Sukiasian, a leading Armenian businessman,president of LEDA Systems Vahram Mouradian, and a US citizen who Amarast shareholders say does not want to disclose his name. The Yerevan-based company will be run by Gagik Arzumanian, a former deputy-minister of finance and economy.

The newly created Amarast company will design and produce cilicon solutions chips, widely used in telecomunications industry.

A principal supplier and licensor or intellectual property (IP) to a broad spectrum of semiconductor producers, LEDA Systems already has an engineering office in Yerevan employing one hundred local specialists. Its Armenia-born founder and president, Vahram Mouradian, said he wants to capitalize on the existence of many skilled specialists in Armenia. He said several major telecom firms, including the China Telecom giant, will be the main buyers Amarast’s production.

Mouradian and Sukiasian declined to specify the expected annual turnover of the new LEDA subsidiary, saying only that it will have a major impact on Armenia’s external trade balance. “Chips and other IT products are going to have a much greater share in Armenia’s imports and exports,” Sukiasian said.

The IT sector is one of the most dynamic branches of the Armenian economy, with nearly two dozen US and European software companies already having subsidiaries in Armenia. Among them is the American firm Epygi Labs pledged to invest $20 million over the next three years when it inaugurated its Yerevan branch last September.

In another sign of its long-term interest in the country, LEDA is sponsoring a newly created IT program at the Armenia State Engineering University (ASEU). It is expected that 30 third-year ASEU students will selected each year to study there under a special LEDA curriculum. Program graduates will be offered employment in the company.

“The new specialization we are creating, in effect, does not exist in our arsenal,” ASEU rector Yuri Sarkisian said. “It will be created to meet technological needs of LEDA.”
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