By Emil Danielyan
The government announced on Wednesday the cut-price privatization of a sprawling factory in the central town of Hrazdan which used to be one of the flagships of Armenia’s Soviet-era heavy industry.
An official press release issued after a weekly cabinet meeting said ministers approved the sale of the government’s 70.35 percent stake in the Hrazdanmash engineering giant to a private company for just 565.7 million drams ($1 million). It was not clear whether the company is registered in Armenia and who owns it.
Officials at the government’s main privatization agency denied any knowledge of the sell-off which appears to have been directly negotiated by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s office without any competitive biddings announced beforehand.
Hrazdanmash used to be the main employer in Hrazdan, mainly producing heavy machinery for various sectors of the Soviet economy, including the military-industrial complex. The factory has fallen into decline since the break-up of the Soviet Union, struggling to remain afloat in the early and mid-1990s when it was run by Telman Ter-Petrosian, the now deceased brother of then President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
The government subsequently separated two production units from Hrazdanmash, one of which has been working for the Armenian Defense Ministry. The rest of Hrazdanmash retained most of the former giant’s facilities, but has largely stood idle in recent years.