- China and Ukraine have agreed to speed the construction of modern grain elevators, silos, port terminals, highways and railroads, according to an action plan posted Thursday on the website of the Ukraine’s Ministry of Economic Development. The plan calls for promoting renewable energy in agriculture and to strengthen interaction between customs authorities of both countries. China sees Ukraine as a major source of food for its population of 1.4 billion.
- Three months ahead of schedule, China Harbor Engineering Company completed on Wednesday the dredging of 4.4 million cubic meters of soil from the bottom of Yuzhny, Ukraine’s busiest port. Andrey Stavnitser, founder of M.V. Cargo stevedoring company, wrote on Facebook that it is “the fastest dredging in the history of the Black Sea ports.” M.V. Cargo and Cargill, the American commodity trader, can now open in March the first phase of a massive, $150 million grain terminal. Capable of handling 10% of Ukraine’s actual grain exports, the terminal will have 14 silos and a warehouse for a total one time storage capacity of 290,000 tons. The EBRD and the International Finance Corporation are providing $74 million in financing.
- President Poroshenko is opening the door to resuming imports of gas from Russia. On a trip to Odesa Thursday, he is quoted by Interfax saying: "What has happened in the past two years? We are energy independent. They [Russia] are knocking: ‘Can you take our gas?’ No, everything is fine in our country. If it's cheap and fair, not corrupt, then, please."
- Ukraine’s state railroad has won the right to set rental rates for its hopper and gondola cars, used for moving grain and coal. Previously, state regulations set Ukrzaliznytsia’s rental rates at one third or below market rates. This led to a rail car black market, supported by exporters desperate to get grain to ports. Concorde Capital’s Alexander Paraschiy writes: “A price difference created a shadow market for state railcar rentals, which will likely vanish once railcar rent is liberalized… the negative effect from the liberalization won't be significant for Ukrzaliznytsia clients.”
- Privatizations netted only 20% of the 2017 target, Vitaly Trubarov, acting head of the State Property Fund, posted on his Facebook page Thursday. Sales brought in only $125 million to the Fund. Although low, this is the largest amount since 2012. Trubarov hopes that a ramped up privatization program will net almost $1 billion in 2018.
- Visa free travel to the EU is cutting unemployment in Ukraine, Social Policy Minister Andriy Reva told reporters Thursday. Over the last year, the total number of unemployed people in Ukraine has declined by 9%. Referring to the opening last June of the EU to 90-day visa free visits by Ukrainians, he said: “Opportunities to work in neighboring countries has led to a decline in applicants who live and desire to work in Ukraine."
- The US has displaced Russia for the first time as the leading source of private money transfers from abroad to Ukraine, reports the National Bank of Ukraine. Overall, the transfers, largely wage remittances, increased by 30% to $5.2 billion during the first three quarters of this year. As tracked by the central bank the top five sources of transfers were: US - $547 million; Russia - $460 million; Germany - $252 million; UK $243 million; and Cyprus - $218 million. Largely uncounted are the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash that travelers carry across the land borders with Poland and other Central European countries.
- The number of Ukrainians with incomes below the subsistence level fell sharply in 2017, from 54.5% to 39.4%, Minister of Social Policy Andrei Reva said at a press conference. He urged employers to raise salaries to compete with pay levels in Poland. Separately, the State Statistics Service said Thursday that in November real, post-inflation wages were up 21.4% compared to one year earlier.
- Ukraine’s inflation is the highest in Europe and the CIS, according to year end research by FOREX CLUB. In 2017, consumer prices in Ukraine rose by 13.6%, far above the EU average of 2.6% and double the average for former Soviet countries, 6.7%. Wage hikes, higher prices for coal and oil, and poor weather contributed to Ukraine’s high level. In 2015, inflation hit a recent peak of 43.3%, then receded to 12.4% in 2016. Despite this year’s up tick, Andriy Shevchyshyn, senior analyst at FOREX CLUB, tells Expres.ua news site: “We expect that next year inflation will not exceed 10-10.5%.”
- Ukraine’s hryvnia crossed the psychological barrier of trading at 28 to the dollar on Thursday. On the interbank foreign exchange market, the rate was UAH 28.09/$1.
- The European Investment Bank is providing EUR12 million in loan guarantees to Raiffeisen Bank Aval for the support of small and medium-sized enterprises. Part of the EU-Ukraine free trade agreement, the loan project could grow to EUR140 million.
- Credit Optima Bank is the fourth small bank this month to voluntarily surrender its banking license to the National Bank of Ukraine. An industry check in October found that Credit Optima was one of four banks that did not have the minimum registered capital of UAH200 million, about $7 million. The others were: Center Bank, UBRD, Polikombank, and Alpari Bank.
- Saudi Arabia and Ukraine have agreed on a health certificate for the supply of processed food products to the Kingdom. This form will allow the export of about 80 types of processed foods according to the Gulf Council Regulation Guide, reports the website of Ukraine’s State Service for Food Safety and Consumer Protection.
- Romania and Odesa will be connected by a modern highway by the end of 2018, said President Poroshenko. A final stretch of the M-15 from Odesa to Reni, on the Danube River, will be rebuilt next summer, he promised Thursday on a visit to Odesa. Poroshenko was born 30 km north of what is now the international highway. At present, speeds on the 318 km road average` 60 km an hour. "I am confident that next year we will complete the construction and repair of the last 90 km of the road and get the road to Romania and a large transport corridor that will give a second wind to business, tourism, and production in the settlements, towns and villages that are located along the road." Often seen as Ukraine’s forgotten neighbor, Romania does not have regularly scheduled air flights to Ukraine.
- Visa free tourism starts Sunday between Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates. Citizens of each country will be able to stay for up to 30 days for each visit. In 2017, about 120,000 Ukrainians are believed to have visited the UAE. Flydubai has direct flights from Kyiv Zhuliany and Odesa to Dubai. From Kyiv Boryspil, Ukraine International Airlines flies to Dubai and Air Arabia flies to Sharjah.
- UIA started flights Tuesday between Kyiv Boryspil and Krakow, Poland’s second largest city. Lasting 1h45 minutes, the flights become daily on Jan. 9. Playing catchup with LOT Polish Airlines, which now has flights to five airports in Ukraine, UIA will launch flights on March 2 from Boryspil to Gdansk, Poland’s third busiest airport, after Warsaw-Chopin and Krakow.
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UBJ a.m. is reported by UBJ Editor in Chief James Brooke, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and Bloomberg Moscow bureau chief. For comments and story tips, Brooke is reachable at email@example.com