Rumors have been swirling recent days in Tbilisi that a billionaire leader of opposition coalition Georgia Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, bought or plans to buy capital city’s gas and electricity distribution companies to then cut tariffs ahead of the October parliamentary elections.
Announcement by the government on May 24, that it decided to postpone initial public offering of 25% shares of the Georgian Railway on the London Stock Exchange because of volatile markets, triggered a new rumor that the IPO plan was dropped because Ivanishvili was intending to buy shares.
Asked during an interview with Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV on Thursday evening about these rumors and whether he was really intending to buy these assets, Ivanishvili responded: “They [the government] wanted to float 25% of the railway on [the London] Stock Exchange; any businessman can get interested with that [asset], there is nothing surprising in that. In general, I do not like making statements in advance; there is nothing concrete to talk about.”
An anchor of the Kavkasia TV’s talk-show interpreted remarks as a confirmation of rumors, telling Ivanishvili: “So we should expect reduction of gas and electricity tariffs.”
“No, no; I did not say that,” Ivanishvili responded immediately. “I did not say that; but having interest towards Telasi or other assets… actually why not. But nothing concrete is going on.”
75% of Telasi, electricity distribution company in Tbilisi, is owned by the Netherlands-registered Silk Road Holdings B.V., which is wholly owned by Russia’s state-controlled power trader, Inter RAO. 24.53% of Telasi stakes is owned by the Georgian state. Earlier this week Georgian news agencies reported quoting Inter RAO spokesman Nikolay Gorelov, saying that Inter RAO had not sold shares of Telasi.
KazTransGas Tbilisi, gas distributor in the capital city, is wholly owned by the KazTransGas, which is part of Kazakh state-owned company KazMunayGas.