Private equity: Kazakhstan starts to walk the walk
It has been a long, slow process but after more than a decade private equity dreams in Kazakhstan are becoming a financial reality. Guy Norton reports from Almaty.
KAZAKHSTAN OFFERS RICH opportunities for private equity. Whether it’s investing in a small-scale fish farm in the south, hotel chains in the north, cement plants in the east or a wannabe oil and gas in the west, there are a plethora of opportunities in all shapes and sizes in the booming central Asian republic. What’s more, potential investors are equally heterodox, spanning big global private sector firms and regional public sector minnows. Whatever the differences in scale and investment approach, all participants concur that private equity as an asset class in Kazakhstan is at last coming of age and that it has an important role to play if the country is to avoid Dutch disease-type reliance on oil and gas and to achieve the kind of well-diversified economy that will enable the nation to avoid the dreaded resource curse that has stricken other emerging market countries. Nobody is labouring under the illusion that the country will be able in the short term to wean itself off its dependence on the extraction and sale of commodities, whether hydrocarbons or metals, but there is widespread confidence among private equity market practitioners that Kazakhstan has the requisite business climate and regulatory environment to make a decent fist of establishing non-resource-related industries and create the conditions for sustainable economic development.