The Armenian government confirmed on Monday that an Iranian company sanctioned by the United States is exploring the possibility of taking over and reactivating Armenia’s largest chemical plant that has stood idle for the last ten years.
The Yerevan-based Nairit plant employed several thousand people in Soviet times. It struggled to remain afloat after the breakup of the Soviet Union, repeatedly changing foreign owners and operators in murky deals overseen by successive Armenian governments.
Nairit had around 2,300 workers when it stopped manufacturing synthetic rubber, its main product, in March 2010. It currently employs only 250 people mostly tasked with guarding its waste disposal and other facilities.
Varag Siserian, a senior aide to Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian, said that senior executives of Iran’s Tabriz Petrochemical Company expressed an interest reactivating the sprawling plant when they met with government officials in Yerevan on January 30.
Siserian said the company plans to conduct a feasibility study for that purpose by the end of next month. “After the study we will be ready to discuss possible variants and formats of cooperation,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in a written statement.
According to Economy Minister Tigran Khachatrian, the government is open to investment projects that would “contain guarantees of long-term stability” at Nairit. “I can’t give details,” he said when asked about Tabriz Petrochemical Company’s interest in the former chemical giant.
Khachatrian also would not be drawn on the amount of capital investments needed for restarting manufacturing operations there.
Siserian noted that the planned feasibility study could be followed by a financial audit of Nairit.
Nairit was declared bankrupt by a court in Yerevan in 2016 because of its failure to pay electricity bills totaling 1.24 billion drams ($2.6 million). It currently owes a total of $262 million to 300 other firms and individuals.
Tabriz Petrochemical Company was among Iranian entities which the United States blacklisted in 2018 as part of its renewed economic sanctions against Iran.
“We have no information about the Iranian company being under U.S. sanctions,” Siserian claimed in this regard.