Uzbekistan is planning to sell up to $300 million of Eurobonds this year in a bid to open up to foreign investment. Uzbek authorities signed a memorandum with Citigroup Inc. during a recent visit to New York to develop a road map for obtaining a sovereign credit rating, Finance Minister Djamshid Kuchkarov said in an interview in Tashkent. There is a “high chance” of a bond sale in either dollars or euros this year, he said.
After more than two decades of isolation, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has been taking steps to steer Central Asia’s most populous country down a more market-friendly route since his election in late 2016, following the death of long-time President Islam Karimov. Since then, reforms have included lifting currency controls, easing some travel restrictions and taking tentative steps to improve the country’s poor human rights record.
The sale of between $200 million and $300 million would be aimed at creating a benchmark for Uzbek corporate borrowers, Kuchkarov said. The amount is still under discussion and the president will have the final say, he said.
“We want Uzbek companies to also be in the international financial market,” Kuchkarov said. “Our aim is to turn Uzbek companies into modern corporations.”
If the debt offering goes ahead, Uzbekistan will be the second debut issuer in two years to come from a region wedged between Russia and Afghanistan, which has previously been off-radar to most international investors. Neighboring Tajikistan raised $500 million in an oversubscribed Eurobond sale last year.