By Emil Danielyan
The ethnic Armenian chairman of Alcatel, the world’s leading telecom equipment supplier, pledged to assist in the development of information technology in Armenia on Saturday as he was honored by the country’s government.
Serge Tchuruk, who has managed the French group for the past decade, met with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian during a visit to Yerevan. Official Armenian sources quoted him as saying that he is ready to help them launch “certain programs on the research and introduction of innovative technologies” in Armenia. No details were reported.
Tchuruk was received by the two men after receiving an honorary doctor’s degree from the Armenian National Academy of Sciences. Its president, Fadey Sargsian, praised his “great contribution” to Armenia’s telecommunications and information technology (IT) sectors.
Kocharian and Markarian also heaped praise on the French citizen of Armenian extraction. Kocharian, according to his press service, spoke of his intention to turn Armenia into a “regional center of intellectual services.” Markarian likewise said his government attaches great importance to the Armenian IT sector which employs thousands of people. He also expressed hope that Tchuruk’s visit will result in “long-term” Alcatel projects in Armenia.
However, the Alcatel boss appears to have fallen short of making specific investment pledges. Alcatel’s presence in Armenia has largely amounted to supplies and installation of telecom equipment to the ArmenTel national operator and its recently established mobile phone competitor, VivaCell. Earlier this year Alcatel and the Greek firm Intracom won a multimillion-dollar contract to set up Armenia’s second wireless network operated by VivaCell.
Alcatel was rumored to have shown interest in ArmenTel when it was put on an international tender in 1998. The controversial tender was granted to Greece’s OTE giant. Some individuals familiar with the privatization process say the Greeks did not submit the highest bid for ArmenTel at the time.
A prominent member of France’s influential Armenian community, Tchuruk has developed a reputation of one of the world’s most efficient business executives. He is widely credited with minimizing Alcatel’s losses resulting from recent years’ slump in the global telecom industry. Alcatel is currently the world's largest seller of telecom gear.
Tchuruk had previously managed France’s Total oil group and Orkem chemical giant.
(Photolur photo: Serge Tchuruk.)