A company belonging to Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetian will not manage Armenia’s electricity transmission network because it already owns the national electric utility, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Friday.
“We believe that the two main energy networks must not be controlled by the same owner,” he told a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
Karapetian’s Tashir Kapital acquired the Armenian power distribution network from a Russian energy giant in 2015. The previous Armenian government moved last year to allow Tashir Kapital to also manage the High-Voltage Electric Networks (HVEN) for the next 25 years. Government officials said at the time that the private operator will cut costs and attract badly needed investments in HVEN.
Energy Minister Artur Grigorian said earlier this week that the new government has decided to terminate the management contract with Tashir Kapital because some of its provisions are “not beneficial for the state.” Grigorian also said on Thursday that HVEN must remain state-owned in view of its strategic importance to the country.
Pashinian made clear, however, the latter statement does not reflect his and his cabinet’s position. “Whether [HVEN] must be private or public is a subject for separate discussion because there is need for some investments there and our state now has some borrowing constraints in terms of the maximum size of the public debt,” he said.
“So I think that government representatives … must not make statements that leave the impression of a final [government] decision, especially given that there is no such decision,” he added.
Tashir Kapital claimed on Thursday that it itself decided to pull out of the deal. It also said that HVEN has been badly mismanaged and that Karapetian’s company had a clear plan to modernize the network and make it much more efficient.
Grigorian is one of the five members of Pashinian’s cabinet representing businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance. His statements therefore fueled media speculation that Tsarukian, who is one of Armenia’s richest, has set his sights on HVEN. Grigorian dismissed that speculation on Wednesday.
Pashinian, for his part, pointedly ruled out the possibility of Tsarukian gaining control over the energy asset. He said that “no individual or company connected to the government” will be allowed to buy or manage HVEN. Offshore-registered firms also cannot run the transmission network, added the premier.