An Armenian government member has downplayed the impact on the local economy of the recent decisions by a number of leading international companies to wind up their business operations in the South Caucasus country.
The “coming or going” of companies, according to Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian, should be viewed as normal.
Among the most known companies that have already left or are going to leave the Armenian market soon are, in particular, Etihad Airways, a reputed airline based in the United Arab Emirates, South Korea’s electronics company Samsung and France’s Orange telecom company.
Etihad Airways, which entered the Armenian market only a year ago, issued a statement in April, announcing that beginning in September it will stop operating flights to Yerevan. As a reason the airline cited its “ongoing revision of flight schedules” without elaborating.
In reply to an RFE/RL Armenian Service inquiry Samsung public relations officer for post-Soviet countries Karen Asoyan explained on Wednesday that the reason for the company’s closing its office in Armenia is “optimization” of its regional activities. “As for Samsung product sales in Armenia, the Armenian market will continue to be managed from the company’s regional office in Georgia,” he added.
Finally, earlier this month it emerged that the French company Orange intends to sell its Armenian subsidiary. Having spent more than 460 million Euros (nearly $508 million) over the period of six years on its Armenia operations, Orange has failed to receive any profits and announced that it no longer considered investments in its local subsidiary to be expedient.
Economy Minister Chshmaritian, however, does not think that the decisions by the mentioned international brands to leave Armenia are necessarily an indication of the worsening economic situation or business environment in the country.
“We should regard it as normal,” he said. “Different companies may work in different countries for a certain period of time and then move out.”
“One should not link the departure of one company or another [with the economic situation]. Because to this I may reply that another company, two or ten companies have arrived,” Chshmaritian argued.
Armenia’s rapidly growing information technology industry has attracted a number of leading international companies in recent years. Just this May Microsoft Corporation pledged to step up its contribution to Armenia’s IT sector with a new regional software development center in Yerevan. Also, Oracle, the world’s second largest software developer after Microsoft, inaugurated its Armenian branch in late 2014.
Hayk Gevorkian, an economic analyst writing for the Haykakan Zhamanak daily, said, however, he was more surprised that some of the leading international companies still remained in Armenia.
“The departure of prestigious international brands and companies from Armenia is very natural. This is due to the overall economic and political situation, if you will,” he said.