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UAE sheikh brings new investments to Georgia

By Christina Tashkevich
Monday, February 4
In a personal meeting with the president last week, an United Arab Emirates sheikh outlined projects in banking, telecommunications and tourism which his investment group is ready to pursue in Georgia.

The UAE’s Minister of Higher Education and Science, Nayan Bin Mubarak Al Nayan, visited Tbilisi at the personal invitation of President Mikheil Saakashvili. He is the chairman of the management board of Abu Dhabi Group, an investment group looking to increase its presence in Georgia.

“We decided to participate [in investment projects] because of Georgia’s great economic strides,” Al Nayan told journalists on February 1.

Abu Dhabi Group is opening the first branch of its KOR Bank in Georgia within the next six months.

“There is a great environment for the banking sector in this country,” the group’s CEO, Bashir Ahmad Tahir, told the paper last week. However, he also advised the Georgian banking sector to focus on financing small and medium enterprises.

“That’s where employment comes from,” he commented.

Tahir said KOR Bank will focus on consumer and investment banking, as well as on asset management and insurance.

The group is also behind Warid Telecom Georgia Ltd., which purchased a telecommunications license three months ago. The company intends to offer wireless internet throughout the entire country by the end of the year.

Tahir also revealed that the group is interested in the hotel construction business.

“There are two things we are looking for—to bring big brands here, like Grand Hyatt and Intercontinental, as well as to develop a full resort, not just one hotel,” he said.

The group’s chairman told journalists on February 1 that they are looking for land to construct a five-star hotel.

Tahir told the newspaper the group was surprised to find a liberalized taxation system as well as strong investment opportunities in many sectors of the Georgian economy.

“This country has a strategic location and excellent opportunity to develop,” the group’s CEO said on January 31.

The group also said last week that Georgia may become a regional hub for UAE capital destined for further investments in Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Saakashvili has courted Arab investors, visiting the UAE in February 2007, and Abu Dhabi Group is not the only UAE-based company signing large deals in Georgia. Rakeen Development is building a large residential and business complex in the capital, and bought the Sheraton Metekhi Palace hotel in Tbilisi for USD 67.5 million.

Another UAE consortium is bidding against British and German groups to build the free economic zone in Poti.