By Atom Markarian
The Swiss group Holcim, one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement and other construction materials, was Wednesday formally declared winner of an international tender for the largest cement factory in the South Caucasus located in the southern Armenian town of Ararat. The company will pay $10 million for Ararat Cement’s equity and land and has pledged to invest $20 million in the struggling factory over the next six years, officials said.
The deputy minister for state property, Ashot Markosian, hailed the deal as one of the biggest success stories of the decade-long privatization process in Armenia. He said the takeover will revitalize Ararat Cement as Holcim will nearly double its annual production volume. The Swiss firm, which is already present in 70 countries of the world and last year posted net sales of more than $10 billion, plans to export the bulk of Armenian cement, according to Markosian.
The Swiss group will at the same time cut the number of jobs at the Ararat factory from 1,200 to 600. Employees that will be laid off by the new owner will be paid a material compensation.
Ararat Cement is currently managed by former prime minister Aram Sarkisian, who is now one of the main political opponents of President Robert Kocharian. Sarkisian has been against its privatization.