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  • Central Bank Hikes Prime Rate
  • Shoppers Shun Cash for Cards
  • Covid’s ‘Third Wave’ Hits Ukraine
  • Ukrainian Lithium to Power Europe’s Electric Car Revolution
  • Shipping News: Take the Ferry to Work?

 

Fearing inflation, Ukraine’s central bank hikes the prime rate to 6.5% today, the first increase in two years. The hike ends a post-Independence low of 6%, which reigned since June.

“We are responding to inflation beyond the target range of 5%,” Kateryna Rozhkova, first deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, wrote yesterday on Facebook. The bank predicts inflation will peak this summer at 8%.

More hikes could come this year, Yuriy Geletiy, a deputy governor of the central bank, told reporters. “The National Bank is ready to raise the discount rate more decisively to limit the fundamental inflationary pressure and bring inflation to the target. Therefore, monetary policy will continue to focus on preventing the inflation spike.”

In the first two months of this year, foreign holdings of Ukraine government bonds increased by $570 million, Geletiy told reporters. As of Monday, foreign holdings totaled $3.65 billion. He said: “In February, non-resident investors continued to grow their portfolio, with a slowdown in the second half of February.”

Remittances from Ukrainians working abroad are expected to grow by 8%, to $13 billion this year, Geletiy said. For the last two years, remittance averaged $12 billion, or $1 billion a month. Labor is Ukraine’s third largest export, after food and metals.


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Ukrainians relentlessly move away from cash, indicates a National Bank of Ukraine report for card and contactless payments. Last year, the number of transactions with payment cards jumped 25% yoy, to 5.2 million, with the volume increasing by 23%, to $79 billion.

Highlights:

  • Cash transactions dropped by 12%
  • The number of Internet transactions jumped 31% yoy
  • Today 36.5% of card transactions are on the Internet; 50% at point-of-sale terminals
  • In December, 40.4 million different payment cards were used in Ukraine, more than one per adult
  • The number of businesses accepting payment cards jumped by 36% yoy, to 326,900.
  • The number of point-of-sale terminals grew last year by 12%, to 375,000. This is nearly double the level of five years ago.
  • In stores, almost 20% of transactions were with smartphones and other gadgets. The total was nearly $4 billion.

With new coronavirus cases doubled last week, Prime Minister Shmygal warned: “It’s obvious that the third wave of the pandemic has started that Ukraine is facing.” Thursday, 10,057 new cases were registered, more than double last Monday’s level of 4,285. “If the situation worsens, if we see that medics are not coping, then we will probably have no choice but to impose strict quarantine like the one that we have already experienced.”

The new cases are largely in Kyiv and to the West: Zhytomyr Oblast – 888; Kyiv City – 868; Vinnytsia Oblast – 827; Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast – 776; and Zakarpattia – 676. Ukraine’s first two cases of the British coronavirus variant, were detected in Ivano-Frankivsk region, health officials said.

Ukraine plans to become a major producer of lithium batteries for Europe’s electric cars, Prime Minister Shmygal told reporters, reviewing talks he had in Brussels last month. By 2030, Europe will need 18 times more lithium than now, by 2050, 60 times more, he said. “Ukraine has the largest lithium deposits on the European continent,” he said. “Europe sees Ukraine as a partner, both in production and processing…We are interested in added value, production, processing, and the maximum creation of the finished product. Again, we do not want to be just a supplier of raw materials, as we have before.”

Coal miners may become lithium miners under a pilot project to start closing two coal mines this year, one in Lviv and the other in Donetsk, the Prime Minister. With German and Polish advice and aid, Ukraine’s “Fair Transformation of Coal Regions” project could involve employing some coal miners to work in new lithium mines, he said.

Turkey and Ukraine are on the final stretch for finalize a bilateral free trade agreement, Shmygal told reporters. Of the long-delayed agreement, he said: “Literally, last week and this week the free trade agreement with Turkey is being finalized.”

In a new twist on the Motor Sich drama, David Arakhamia, the head of Servant of the People faction in the Rada, said he will submit a bill to nationalize the Zaporizhia-based aircraft engine manufacturer. On Jan. 29, President Zelenskiy barred Chinese investors from asserting control. “It is to settle the legal status of the company, that is a large constructor of helicopter engines,” Arakhamia said. “Because the company is facing uncertainty, it is being sanctioned upon, and several tens of thousands of employees work at it.”

Navigation will resume this week on the Dnipro River, two months after closing for ice, reports Port of Ukraine. All locks on the Dnipro cascade – from the Kyiv Sea to the Black Sea – are to re-open Wednesday.

Although last year’s Dnipro shipping season was six weeks longer than usual, cargo dropped 5% yoy, to 11 million tons.Results of cargo transportation were influenced by the reduction in grain transportation on navigable rivers,” says Dmitry Kozachenko, executive director of the Rivers of Ukraine Association. Volumes on Ukraine’s portion of the Danube were down 28%, to 4 million tons. On the Southern Bug, volumes were down 37.5%, to 500,000 tons. The big products moved down Ukraine’s three largest navigable rivers are: grain, coal, metal products and ore, and building materials, such as sand, cement and gravel.

With traffic jams clogging Kyiv’s Dnipro bridges, the City Council is studying restoring boat service across the river. According to Kiev Vlast, the River Port Administration calculates that 2,000 people a day would commute by ferry, following this route: Rusanivka, Bereznyaki, Dnipro Metro station, Podil River Port. Depending on the boat and the weather, the entire trip would take one hour. Tickets would cost UAH 30-60, $1-2.

In January-February, Ukrainians imported 53,000 used cars, 4.4 times the volume of the first two months of 2019. Used imports, a rarity four years ago, now account for 81% of car imports, reports Ukravtoprom, the vehicle industry association. In 2020, 353,400 used imports and 85,500 new imports were registered in Ukraine.

 

 

  • Covid Spike Prompts Train Cancellations
  • Vaccinations to Hit 5 Million a Month This Summer
  • Grain Exports Down, But Prices Up
  • MHP Wants to Move from Chicken Cuts to Chicken Kiev
  • Ukravtodor To Complete Bridge over Dnipro – a 20 year construction cycle

 

With coronavirus hospitalizations spiking to the highest level since the pandemic appeared in Ukraine one year ago, Ukrzalysnitsia is temporarily ceasing passenger train service to the three most effected regions: Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi and Zhytomyr. Ticket sales for the Ivano-Frankivsk service stopped one week ago. Sales of tickets for the passenger service to Chernivtsi and Zhytomyr stop on Sunday.

By November, all Ukrainians will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, Stepanov said on ICTV’s Freedom of Speech talk show. Starting this week, the daily vaccination rate is to hit 10,000. “By summer, it would be 5-6 million a month,” he told reporters. So far Ukraine has received from India 500,000 doses of the Swedish-British AstraZeneca vaccine. Ukraine has also ordered 17 million more doses from India. Stepanov said he fears the 1.9 million Sinovac doses will not arrive from China as per the contractural agreement.

Ukrainians can sign up for vaccinations through the Diia website, or by calling the Health Ministry’s hotline: 0 800 60 20 19. Although international donors are paying for a large portion of the vaccines through the COVAX program, expatriates and any other foreign nationals will only be able to get vaccinated by paying for it. The Health Ministry predicts vaccines will become commercially available in Ukraine by this summer.

Cargo handled by Ukraine’s ports was down 24% yoy in January-February, to 20.6 million tons, reported the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. Exports dropped by 23%, to 16.1 million tons. Imports dropped by 28%, to 3 million tons. The big winter drop was a 38% fall in grain exports, to 5.6 million tons.

High grain prices may partly cancel out falls in volume shipments. In the eight months since the grain marketing year started July 1, grain exports fell 22%, reported the Economy Ministry. Corn is down 30%, to 13.8 million tons. Wheat is down 17%, to 13.7 million tons. Barley is down 2%, to 4 million tons.

Yet Black Sea grain prices are at seven-year high: corn at $260-267 a ton, wheat at $281-288 a ton, and barley at $256-$263 a ton, reported Reuters. In the last marketing year, Ukraine exported 57 million tons of grain. This year, the government predicts exports could decline to 45.4 million tons – a 20% drop. Dragon Capital wrote: The recent surge in global grain prices should at least partially offset weaker volume exports.”

Kernel, the world’s largest sunflower oil producer, is halfway through a $169 million project to build cogeneration heat and power plants at its six oil seed crushing plants. The company already receives half of its energy from renewable sources.

According to Forbes Ukraine, MHP Agroholding, Ukraine’s largest chicken producer plans to open 2,000 Myasomarket stores across Ukraine in the next three years. Part of a shift from a ‘raw materials’ producer to a higher value ‘culinary company’.  MHP will franchise the meat market stores, 2,000 shawarma DönerMarket outlets, a network of ‘Secrets of the Chef gastro-studios’ and an R&D department. Olena Kosyuk, Head of Research & Development and spouse of the Company Chairman Yuriy Kosyuk, said: “We will be able to develop new products for ourselves and other companies. Study the tastes of different consumer segments. Hold tastings, gather focus groups, test packaging materials and much more.”

Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo is considering building a bakery in Fastiv, Kyiv region to bake buns for McDonald’s. Three years ago, the multinational’s Ukraine unit, Bimbo QSR Ukraine, bought East Bolt Ukraine bakery in Dnipro to bake buns for the fast food chain. This morning the project is to be outline at UkraineInvest’sIndustrial Relocation” conference, in Fastiv’s Palace of Culture, a one hour drive south of Kyiv’s Ring Road.

Swedish retailer H&M plans to open its first store outside of Kyiv in Kharkiv in May. With the 2,100 square meter store in the new Nikolskiy shopping mall, H&M will have six stores in Ukraine after 18 months ago of its initial entry to the market. H&M Ukraine CEO Dominik Fantachino said: “We see a high interest in the H&M brand in the regions.”

With Kyiv traffic conjestion increasing, Ukravtodor agreed to complete the construction by the end of 2021 of the long-stalled New Darnytskyi Bridge. In what could be a $40 million project, Ukravtodor will complete the Left Bank exits from 1 km long road-rail bridge. At present, the 6-lane bridge funnels east-bound traffic directly to Darnitskiy Highway. Exit ramps to the Dnipro Embankment highway will allow exiting traffic to flow north and south. The bridge, which is owned by Ukrzaliznytisa, was designed almost 20 years ago to carry 60,000 cars a day. After the bridge opened a decade ago to trains and limited road traffic, UZ stopped construction.

Kyivpastrans has opened a tender for two new cars for the Funicular, a purchase expected to cost €6.5 million. As part of a wider Urban Public Transport initiative for 11 Ukrainian cities, the European Investment Bank is funding much of the funicular budget to replace two cars bought in 1984. Connecting Podil’s Poshtova Square and the upper town’s Mykhailivska Square, the Funicular carries about 10,000 passengers a day. It opened in 1905, three years after the Odesa Funicular.

Casino gambling licenses have been issued to five hotels, Danilo Hetmantsev, Head of the Rada’s Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs policy, said after a briefing by Ivan Rudy, Head of the Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries. Hetmantsev said that half of the nearly $5 million in total licenses have been paid. Separately, the Commission posts on its website that it issued a license to allow Parimatch to resume betting activities in Ukraine. A bookmaker license is $3.8 million.

Turkish Airlines’ lowcost unit, AnadoluJet, will start flights to Ukraine for the first time on March 30 2021 with a flight between Ankara and Kyiv Boryspil. Flying a Boeing 737-800, Anadolujet schedule includes four services a week. Pegasus Airlines, another Turkish lowcost airline, already operates on the Kyiv-Ankara route. Separately, Ukraine International Airlines commences a new route to Nevşehir, the regional capital in Central Anatolia on March 25. The direct flights from Kyiv Boryspil will improve tourist access to Cappadocia.

Last Week, Turkey reopened restaurants for inside dining, ending a long ban. Ukrainian tourists can travel to Turkey without a visa if they have a negative coronavirus test result taken no earlier than 72 hours before departure. About 9% of Turkey’s population have received a first coronavirus vaccine shot.

 

 

  • Epicenter K Plans $2 billion Investments
  • Silpo, JYSK Add Stores
  • Stuck in Ukraine, Shoppers Could Boost Retail This Year by 15%
  • Foreign Investors Return to Ukraine Bonds, Lower Rates
  • Donbas: EU Builds Bridges, Russia Raises Drawbridges
  • Eight New International Brand Hotels To Open by 2023

 

Epicenter K, Ukraine’s largest retailer, plans to invest $2 billion over the next two years in all areas of the group, Petr Mikhailishynm the group’s general director, tells Interfax-Ukraine. Investments include: $100 million for solar panels atop hyper markets, $100 million for grain elevators, $96 million for ceramics factories, and $46 million for concrete production with German equipment. “Since we have about 1.5 million square meters of roofs, which are empty from the point of view of energy efficiency, we want to start arranging solar panels there,” Mikhailishynm said, adding he hopes to win low interest ‘green loans’ from the EBRD or World Bank.

Fozzy Group’s Silpo supermarket chain, is purchasing another Ukrainian store chain, Furshet, according to the Anti-Monopoly Committee. Silpo will buy 21 Furshet stores, raising the chain’s nationwide number to nearly 300. Silpo is still far behind its top rival, ATB-Market, which has over 1,000 stores. As Ukraine steadily moves away from traditional food markets, ATB opened 127 new stores last year.

Denmark’s JYSK Ukraine will open six new furniture and household goods stores by June, raising the total number to 78. In addition, the chain is reformatting all existing stores and promoting online sales, Ievgenii Ivanytsia, executive manager of JYSK Ukraine tells Interfax-Ukraine.

Retail sales growth slowed to 3.5% yoy in January, down from 13.4% yoy growth in December, reports the State Statistics Service. January’s 2.5 week lockdown dented sales in a traditionally slow month.

Dragon Capital writes: “We expect retail turnover to remain on an upward trend throughout the rest of this year, as slow vaccination will limit the recovery in international travel, supporting domestic consumption…the growth in retail turnover will likely surge to high double-digits in 2Q21, boosting full-year growth to 15% yoy…up from 8.4% in 2020.”

With foreign investors increasingly believing in Ukraine’s foreign exchange rate stability, the Finance Ministry sharply cut yields in short term debt up for auction, the Ministry reports.  Yields were cut by 60 basis points on 3-month papers, to 8.47%; by 13 basis points on 1-year papers, to 10.67%; and by 11 basis points on 1.5-year papers, to 11.04%. Unchanged were yields on 2-year papers, at 11.8%, and 3-year papers, at 12.05%. Also unchanged was the yield on 2-year US dollar bonds – 3.9%. Total auction proceed were the equivalent of $411 million, the Ministry posts on Facebook.

Foreign investors were the fastest growing class of buyers in February, increasing their holdings by $233 million, Bohdan Danylyshyn, chairman of the National Bank Council, writes on Facebook. Last year, foreign investors’ share of the issues tumbled: from 15% in February to 8% in late November. Since then, it has rebounded to 12.2%.

“Ukraine local bonds are back,” headlines a story in BNEIntellinews. “Despite the political brouhaha that never ends in Ukraine, the macroeconomic situation has improved enormously in the last two years,” Ben Aris writes from Berlin. “Inflation has fallen to post-Soviet lows, forex reserves have risen to give 4.4 months of import cover (a comfortable level), the banking sector is healthy, and Ukraine ran a large trade surplus in 2020…Focusing just on the economic arguments, the outlook for Ukraine’s local bond market looks very attractive. It compares very well with its frontier and emerging market peers.”

Analysts are divided on whether Ukraine’s central bank will raise its prime rate or hold it steady, a Reuters poll showed. Half of 16 Ukrainian analysts predict the National Bank of Ukraine will keep the interest rate at its historic post-1991 independence low of 6%, to help businesses. Industrial output, which started recovering in December, shrank 4% yoy in January. The other eight analysts believe the central bank will raise the rate: six expect 6.5% and two expect 6.25%. Inflation jumped to 6.1% in January, above expectations and above the interest rate.

The EU will provide money to build more and better crossing points between the Ukraine- and Russia-controlled halves of the Donbas, European Council President Charles Michel at a joint press conference with President Zelenskiy at the Shchastia border crossing point in Luhansk. “This year we are starting a new program to support economic development and public services in these regions,” Michel said referring to Ukraine-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk. “This will include funding for the Entry-Exit Crossing Points.”

Russia cut crossings of the line of control by 96% last year, according to figures supplied by Oleksiy Reznikov, deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine. In 2019, there were 1.4 million crossing a month. Last year, after the Covid pandemic hit in March, crossings averaged 55,000 a month. Last week, the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral contact group issued this message: “The opportunity for our citizens to leave the temporarily occupied territories and receive administrative services, pensions and social benefits has been blocked since Nov. 10.”

Ukraine is working to create a ‘virtual mobile number’ which will give residents of Russia-controlled territories the opportunity to call Ukraine-controlled Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Reznikov told a development forum in Kyiv. Over the last year, Russia has distributed an estimated 400,000 passports to residents of Russia-controlled Donbas.

The Pentagon is sending $125 million in military aid to Ukraine – training, equipment and advisory efforts “to help Ukraine’s forces preserve the country’s territorial integrity, secure its borders and improve interoperability with NATO.” The aid includes two Mark VI patrol boats, raising the number to eight. The boats are designed to patrol rivers and coastal waters.

Zelenskiy’s fast-paced attacks on pro-Russian interests “are likely to score points with the new US administration,” Roman Olearchyk, the Financial Times’ veteran correspondent in Kyiv writes in a story headlined: “Zelenskiy takes on Ukraine’s oligarchs in bid to court Biden.” Maria Zolkina, analyst at the Kyiv-based Democratic Initiatives Foundation, tells the FT for Zelenskiy: “Everything he is doing now is an attempt to return to his original image, upon which he can build his re-election campaign.”

International brand hotels in Ukraine are to increase by 50%, to 25, by 2023, Ivan Lun, international relations director at the Ukrainian Hotel and Resort Association, tells Interfax-Ukraine. Planned openings for this year are: Radisson Hotel City Center Odesa – 90 rooms; Best Western Plus Lviv Market Square – 70; and Ibis & Adagio Kyiv – 265. Planned for opening by 2023 are: Ibis Lviv – 100; Radisson Hotel Pechersk Park Kyiv – 167; Sheraton Kyiv Troitska Square – 208; Novotel Lviv – 125; and Hampton by Hampton Lviv airport – 138.

 

 

  • Wind Power Marches On, Erecting Towers Taller than Gulliver Shopping Center
  • American, Turkish, French and Chinese Investors Bet on Ukrainian Wind
  • Cashless and E-Commerce Expand
  • Croissant or Pasta? EU Companies Want to Run UZ Stations
  • Lviv Loves Germany

 

In a ray of hope for Ukraine’s beleaguered wind power sector, DTEK Renewables and Denmark’s Vestas have signed a joint venture agreement to build 126 MW of wind power capacity in Mykolaiv. To pay for the 21 towers and turbines, DTEK will draw on its five-year €325 million green bond issued in 2019. Over the last year, the Zelenskiy Administration’s green tariff cuts and delays in payments to producers have frozen many renewable projects.

Rising on the Tylihul estuary, 80 km southwest of Mykolaiv city, the DTEK/Vestas turbines will be the tallest post-Independence structures in Ukraine. The blades will measure 162 meters from tip to tip, about 60% longer than the standard football field. If the 6 MW turbine hub is mounted atop a 100-meter tall tower, each windmill would rise 181 meters in the air. By contrast, the tallest building in Ukraine, Klovskii Descent 7A, rises 168 meters. The Duga radar array near Chornobyl rises 150 meters. Only the Kyiv TV Tower is taller – 385 meters.

The Tiligulska wind power project is designed to be scaled up to 564 MW. But, for this to happen Maris Kunitskis, CEO of DTEK Renewables, says: “We expect that the crisis related to non-payments for the renewable energy sector will be resolved soon, and the state policy regarding renewable energy will become understandable and predictable.”

With wind and solar executives desperately renegotiating bank loans and talking to lawyers about international arbitration, the most visible sign of Ukraine’s crisis came in January when Norway’s Aker decided, after six months of due diligence, not to go ahead with a planned purchase of NBT. Aker reportedly cited “Ukraine exposure” as its reason for not going through with the deal to buy control of NBT, which had plans for 1 G of wind power plants southern Ukraine.

By contrast, Europe installed 14.7 GW of new wind capacity last year. Wind farm generation covered 16.4% of electricity consumption in Europe, reports WindEurope.

Despite lower rates and uncertainty over payments, several wind projects are advancing in Ukraine:

 

  • Two US-originated companies, VR Capital Group’s Elementum Energy and Peter Gish’s Ukraine Power Resources plan to inaugurate this spring a 40 MW wind farm in Starokozache, on the Dnister estuary, 75 km west of Odesa.
  • Turkey’s Atlas Global Energy plans to build a 16 turbine, 60 MW wind farm in a Carpathian mountain valley near the Beskidy railroad tunnel, reports Daily Lviv. The tracks through the newly rebuilt, 1.8 km tunnel are electrified. The wind power plant is to connect to an Ukrzaliznytsia
  • France’s Eurocape New Energy has commissioned a 98 MW wind farm in the Priazovsky district of Zaporizhia. The plant, Eurocape 1, has 27 GE tubines, each with a capacity of 3.6 MW. Originally planned to be Europe’s largest on shore wind project, with a capacity of 600 MW, the Eurocape project has largely frozen further expansion due to the lowered electricity rates and the unpaid power bills.
  • Hong Kong’s Hiro Asia Investments is paying for the construction of a 25-turbine, 75 MW wind power plant that is to guarantee electricity for Yuzhne, Ukraine’s largest port. China is Ukraine’s largest trading partner. The €65 million project is nearing completion, reports Southern Okrug news site. The power is almost 10 times more than the city’s peak winter consumption, Yuzhne mayor Vladimir Novatsky, writes on Facebook.

 

Ukrposhta, the national postal operator, starts this week a partnership with OLX, one of Ukraine’s largest online market places. Last year, Dutch-domiciled OLX nearly doubled its deliveries in Ukraine, to 300,000 a month. Ukrposhta now guarantees 3-day delivery of OLX packages to anywhere in Ukraine. Ihor Smelyansky, director general of Ukrposhta says: “We are opening access to an audience of 10 million Ukrainians in the most remote corners of the country.”

Non-cash payments grew last year to 55%, more than double the level of 25% recorded in 2014, reports the European Business Association. The total volume of e-money transactions increased by 15% last year, The number ‘e-wallets’ increased by 7%, to to 79 million.

Offering a boost to residential construction, the first two mortgages were signed under a new state programAffordable Mortgage at 7%.” The 20-year mortgages are reserved for apartments or house that are under six years old. The maximum value of the residence is $90,000, the maximum loan size is $71,500, the down payment is 15% and the fixed rate is 7%.

We will work to ensure that housing loans at 7% are truly accessible to all in Ukraine,” President Zelenskiy vowed at the mortgage signing ceremony. Seven banks are participating in the program: PrivatBank, Oschadbank, Ukrgasbank, Globus Bank, OTP Bank, Megabank, Kredobank. This week, state-owned Oschadbank opens 12 Oschad Home mortgage centers in 10 regions.

French and Italian railroad station operators are among the eight companies that are seriously interested in running Ukrainian rail stations on a concession basis, Alexander Pertsovsky, director of Ukrzaliznytsia’s ‘Passenger Company,’ tells the Center for Transportation Strategies. Candidate stations include: Kyiv, Chop, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Vinnytsia.

Hotel Lviv, Grand Hotel Lviv and Gagarin Hotel in Odesa’s Arcadia district have been granted premises permits, a first step toward winning a casino license, reports Deadlinenews, a Scottish site. Without citing sources, the news site says that Ukraine’s new Gambling and Lotteries Regulation Commission has issued a total of 11 permits to hotels around the country.

Lufthansa launches flights between Lviv and Frankfurt am Main on April 30. Germany’s largest airline already flies between Lviv and Munich. Ryanair flies from Lviv to Memmingen and to Weeze. Wizz Air flies from Lviv to Berlin Brandenburg and to Dortmund.

 

 

  • Odesa to Assemble Huey Helicopters
  • Markarova: More US Investments in Pipeline
  • Fitch: Only One IMF Tranche This Year
  • UZ Conductors to Peddle Movie Tickets, Business Lunches
  • Georgia Opens for Tourists
  • Discount Airlines Gamble that Italy Opens by Easter

 

Bell Textron’s ‘Huey’ helicopters, the US military’s workhorse in the Vietnam War, will be assembled in coming months at Ukroboronprom’s Odesa Aviation Plant under license from the Fort Worth, Texas company. Formally called the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, the first helicopter should be started in time for Ukraine’s 30th Independence Day, Aug. 24, Yuriy Gusev, CEO of Ukraine’s defense conglomerate, said after a visit to the plant. Most of the 16,000 Hueys made since 1952 have been manufactured in Texas or Quebec. The Odesa plant, which specializes in the repair and maintenance of Soviet-design aircraft, is expected to largely assemble helicopter components manufactured in North America.

US investments in Ukraine are expected by the end of this year in a series of areas, Oksana Markarova, said in a lengthy interview with Ukrinform made prior to her traveling to Washington to take up her new post Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States. “We are already discussing a number of projects in the defense sector, energy, mining, agriculture, where I hope we will be able to show progress during the first six to twelve months,” she said. “Above all high technologies in other areas – high-tech, agrotech, medicine, as well as the military-defense sector.”

A five-year veteran of Ukraine’s Finance Ministry, Markarova dampened hopes that her main job is to get Ukraine’s IMF program back on track. She said: “Most of the central bodies of financial organizations are located in Washington, and I have a huge successful experience of working with them and a wide base of personal contacts at all levels, including managerial one, but working with the IMF is far from the main task of the ambassador to Washington.”

Ukraine will receive only one IMF tranche this year, predicts Fitch Ratings. Predicting that Ukraine will get less than one quarter of the $2.9 available under the June 2020 Standby Arrangement, the New York-based credit rating agency writes: “Fitch envisions one IMF disbursement of $0.7 billion for 2021, $1.5 billion of other official funding, a higher Eurobond issue than the planned $1.4 billion, and a 0.2% GDP cut in budget reserves.”

Financial needs in the second half of this year will pressure the government to adopt the anti-corruption and free market reforms demanded by the IMF, Fitch predicted. Foreign debt repayments spike in September, to $2.2 billion, and government budget needs increase in the fall.

As Ukrainians gain confidence in money transfer systems, the amount of money transferred inside the country grew by 24% yoy in 2020, to the equivalent of $9.5 billion, reports the National Bank of Ukraine. It was the fourth consecutive year of growth over 20%.

The amount of money sent into Ukraine through money transfer systems increased by 19% yoy, to $2.7 billion. The average amount of one transfer increased by 7%, to $393. The top sources of money coming in by money transfers were: the US, Italy, and Israel. Overall, $12.1 billion was sent into Ukraine last year by informal and formal channels, estimates the central bank.

More movies, better food, and chatbots oriented toward business customers are in the works for Ukrzaliznytsia this year, Alexander Pertsovsky, director of the state railroad’s ‘Passenger Company,’ told Hromadske Radio. Expanding pilot projects, the railroad plans to expand to all long distance trains, the sale of lunch boxes, business lunches, children’s menu and, in partnership with Sweet TV, onling access to 280 films and cartoons with Ukrainian voice overs.

A Viber and Telegram chatbot for buying tickets that UZ launched in January with Visa and Middleware Inc. is to be expanded to handle group sales and “the B2B segment,” said Pertsovsky. UZ is working on a wait list feature for tickets on sold out trains. To promote sales, UZ may pay conductors sales commissions.

UZ will buy 100 new passenger sleeper cars for an expected price of $109 million, according a tender posted last week on Prozorro, the online procurement platform. The tender closes March 30 and the cars are to be delivered by year end. UZ carries about 40% of Ukraine’s long distance passenger traffic.

To boost Black Sea tourism, almost 500 km of bicycle paths are to be built in Odesa and neighboring Mykolaiv regions. In Odesa, two paths totaling 420 km will run on two routes south of the city, Ukravtodor reports on Facebook. One 90km-circuit will connect the resort town of Chornomorsk, Hrybivka and Ovidiopol. A second 250-km ‘Big Bike’ route will run south past Zatoka, Shabo, to 16 and T-16-25 roads and will provide bicycle connections with Zatoka, Shabo, Serhiyivka and Tatarbunary. The paths will largely follow highways, but will be separated from traffic by a fence. In Mykolaiv, governor Vitaliy Kim tells Nik Vesti that the regional government is starting to design 70 km of paths to connect with path to resorts in Kherson and Odesa.

Georgia reopened to foreign tourists, after almost one year of quarantine. To enter Georgia, Ukrainians need to do two PCR tests – one within 72 hours of takeoff and a second 72 hours after arrival. In response, Ukraine’s SkyUp Airlines launches flights this week from Kyiv Borsypil, Zaporozhia, Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv to Tbilisi and Batumi. Ukraine’s Health Ministry ranked Georgia as ‘Green’ is its coronavirus listing.

Rivals Wizz Air and Ryanair are gambling that Italy will open up for Ukrainian tourism at the end of this month. Starting March 28, Ryanair starts service from Lviv to Bari, Naples, Palermo, Pisa, Treviso and Turin. Wizz Air starts flights from Lviv to Catania and Verona. From Odesa, Wizz Air starts flights to Bologna, Milan-Malpensa and Treviso. From Kyiv Sikorsky, Wizz Air starts service to Bologna, Catania, Milan-Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino. Lumiwings, a new Greek charter airline, plans to start flying in June between Odesa and Forli and Perugia, two cities in central Italy.

Bees Airline, a new Ukrainian lowcost startup, plans to start flying this month from Kyiv Sikorsky to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Marsa Alam and in April to Mombasa, Kenya. The airline has leased two Boeing 737-800s that were used for nine years by UIA. Because of the pandemic, Bees reportedly was able to lease each Boeing for $10,000 a day – a 30% discount over pre-pandemic rates.

The original English version is from our partner UBN – Ukraine Business News. For more information and news archive, go to: www.ubn.news.

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