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Russian company sole bidder in Armenian railway tender

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Tuesday, December 18
Shigeo Katsu, regional vice president of the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asian department, has expressed concern that only one company remains in a tender for the management rights of Armenian Railways, according to the news agency Regnum.

He added that the tender had been well-organized and the World Bank expected more companies to be involved in it. On December 6, Indian company RITES withdrew its bid, making Russian Railways the only remaining participant.

Armenian media claim a secret agreement signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Armenian counterpart guarantees Russian Railway management rights, making the tender simply a formality.

Critics of the Armenian government have raised worries about Russia’s increasing economic presence in the country, which has seen Russian companies acquire key stakes in Armenia’s energy and telecommunication sectors.

However, Katsu said the World Bank does not take issue with the bidder itself. “The World Bank has nothing against Russian Railways and we do not care from which country the company comes from,” Regnum quoted Katsu as saying.

Yerevan announced the tender in October 2006; the winner will have a 30-year concession, with a right to a 20-year extension, on the condition it invests USD 170 million in reconstruction projects. Ararat Khrimian, head of Armenian Railways, said the winner will be announced after January 2008.