UK Looks To Take Advantage Of Kazakhstan’s Drive To A Modern Economy

Kazakhstan eyes to attract foreign investment

Britain is rolling out the red carpet in a bid to woo businesses from Kazakhstan to the UK stock market.

Just days after City regulators moved to rip up stock market rules to allow Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to list its shares in London, trade and investment minister Greg Hands is spearheading a charm offensive at a conference in the Kazakh capital Astana tomorrow.

The dictatorship has embarked on a privatisation drive as it seeks to transform the country from a post-Soviet state into a modern market economy – and the UK is looking to take advantage.

But the summit, organised by the London Stock Exchange, risks fuelling fears that standards in the City are being watered down as the UK looks to attract business after the Brexit vote.

Investors have voiced concerns over the listing of companies where power is concentrated in the hands of foreign countries or powerful oligarchs – leaving other shareholders vulnerable.

The City is still reeling from the disastrous listing of scandal-stricken Kazakh mining company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) in recent years.

ENRC is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office amid allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption.

Catherine Howarth, chief executive of campaign group ShareAction, said: ‘London must be careful not to damage its own reputation for high governance standards.’

The LSE said the summit will ‘provide an update on the outlook for UK capital markets and international capital raising opportunities in London’.

Delegates will hear from Hands as well as Dauren Tasmagambetov, a senior executive at Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna.

As director of the department of asset privatisation and restructuring, Tasmagambetov is seeking to float some of the Central Asian nation’s largest companies on stock markets around the world.

The aim is to cut the level of state-ownership in industry from around 70 per cent to 15 per cent by the time the privatisation programme is completed in 2021, through the sale of companies such as national airline Air Astana, rail firm Kazakhstan Temir Zholy and oil and gas explorer KazMunaiGas.

There are 99 firms from Russia and the former Soviet states already listed in London with a combined value of nearly £400 billion, including 14 Kazakh firms worth around £10 billion.

Garry White, chief investment commentator at Charles Stanley, said the UK ‘has always welcomed companies from all over the world’ but that ‘no exceptions are made on corporate governance fronts on companies that are majority owned by oligarchs’.

Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager at Royal London Asset Management, said stock market rules ‘should not be changed for companies of a particular provenance, size or control structure’. Chris Cummings, chief executive at the Investment Association, said the rules must ensure that ‘the protections that investors expect’ are upheld.

The London Stock Exchange did not comment.