By Emil Danielyan
A Russian industrial group has acquired one of Armenia’s two cement plants located in the central town of Hrazdan, an Armenian news agency reported on Friday.
The Arminfo news agency based the report on an unnamed source close to the Mika-Cement company owned by Mikhail Baghdasarian, a Russian-Armenian businessman close to President Serzh Sarkisian. It said the cost of the company’s takeover by Russia’s RATM Holding is not yet known.
A spokeswoman for Baghdasarov declined to confirm or deny the information, saying only that he has been negotiating with foreign investors interested in the Hrazdan plant. “Let’s just wait for a few more days,” she told RFE/RL.
Mika-Cement was put up for sale last month as part of Baghdasarov’s stated plans to concentrate on one of his businesses in Armenia, the Armavia national airline. A mineral water bottling plant owned by him was purchased by a local businessman earlier this years. It is not clear if Baghdasarov also plans to sell one of the several firms enjoying a de facto monopoly on fuel imports to Armenia.
Like the other Armenian cement plant based in the southern town of Ararat, Mika-Cement has greatly benefited from recent years’ construction boom that has been the driving force behind the country’s double-digit economic growth. Both plants also export a large part of their production to neighboring Iran and Georgia. Their output could rise further in the coming years given Russia’s declared intention to import Armenian cement for large-scale construction work in its southern city of Sochi that will host the winter Olympic Games of 2014.
Despite operating at full capacity, Mika-Cement has posted suspiciously modest profits. It paid only 180 million drams ($600,000) in various taxes in the first half of this year, occupying a lowly 191st place on the list of Armenia’s largest corporate taxpayers published by the State Tax Service. Rival Ararat-Cement, which is officially owned by another government-linked tycoon, Gagik Tsarukian, was much higher in the rankings, with a total tax contribution of 883 million drams.
(Photolur photo: Mikhail Baghdasarov.)