A German engineering company has expressed an interest in managing Armenia’s largest chemical enterprise facing an uncertain future, the Armenian government announced on Friday.
The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources said the Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz company, also known as CAC, has been the only bidder in an international tender for the right to operate the Nairit plant in Yerevan.
“The German company specializing in chemical engineering has submitted a bid,” the ministry spokeswoman, Lusine Harutiunian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “Ministry specialists and representatives of that company will hold a meeting soon.”
“The company’s representatives will present their capabilities in this sector, after which our further actions will become clear,” she said, speaking the day after the official deadline for the submission of bids.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian said on June 10 that three foreign firms are participating in the tender. He did not name any of them.
The government and Rhinoville Property Limited, a British-registered obscure firm that owns 90 percent of Nairit, called the bidding earlier this year in another attempt to revive the Soviet-era industrial giant that has struggled to survive for much of the past two decades.
Erratic manufacturing operations at Nairit ground to a halt following the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008. The plant, whose main product is synthetic rubber, is now operating at a fraction of its capacity.
Only some 500 of its more than 3,000 employees go to work on a regular basis at present. They have not been paid for at least two months.
Several dozen Nairit workers demonstrated outside the presidential palace in Yerevan earlier this month to demand their back wages. Officials from President Serzh Sarkisian’s staff assured them that the wage arrears will be eliminated in the next few weeks.
According to the Nairit administration, all workers received wages and leave pay for March shortly after the protest. “We hope that the rest will be paid soon,” a company spokeswoman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
In what may have been a related development, the Nairit director general, Vahan Melkonian, stepped down ahead of an annual meeting of the company’s shareholders held on Thursday. Neither he, nor the company gave any reasons for the resignation.