Feb. 16, 2016


Askar Kanafin

Kazakhstan

Askar Kanafin

CEO, Ordabasy Group

"Oil is a limited resource, and I believe it will return to a fair price."

BIO

From January 2006 until September 2012, Askar Kanafin was the CEO of Resmi Group. He is currently the Chairman of the Executive Board at Ordabasy Group, a position he has held since Novermber 2013.

As a group with diversified business interests, which sectors are most represented in your portfolio?

Ordabasy Group is a diversified business group, with energy and oil and gas being our key businesses. Our portfolio comprises many companies, one of which is Kazakhstan Utility Systems in the energy sector. About 25% of the country's population uses energy generated and provided by us. We cover the two biggest regions; industrial Karaganda, where we have the generation and networks, and Shymkent, where we only provide power to local customers. In oil and gas, we have various projects underway. With oil, we executed a successful 95% exit from the Maten Petroleum Company last year. We maintain a 5% stake in the company, but it's mostly symbolic at this point. We are 100% owners of Ansagan Petroleum, which will go from the research phase to the development phase by the end of this year. We entered KazAzot as well, and while we are not a managing partner, we are a significant equity participant nevertheless. Another area where we are increasingly active is geological research. We just purchased one of the biggest gold mines, Ubileyny, and we stand to become a solid player in the gold market. We also have promising copper locations. Another significant direction for us is in financial services, where we are participating in two Kazakhstani banks, Qazaq Bank and RBK Bank. We are 40% partners in Falah Gold Fund from Abu Dhabi. In addition, we also own 100% of Amanat Insurance companies, and we have certain local funds like DK Invest, which invests in real estate and construction projects. This year we purchased the biggest cable operator, Alma TV, which we are transforming from a cable operator to a communication company that also provides internet services. It is the second biggest B2C internet provider in Kazakhstan after Kazakh Telecom. That's a major milestone for the company. Another important business line is construction through our company Tarlan. We also own the biggest pharmaceutical chain in Kazakhstan, Europharma. They participate additionally in government purchases, providing a channel for the large international pharmaceutical companies to sell their products in Kazakhstan. We are active in real estate and we own several business centers as well as our Ordabasy Industrial Zone in Shymkent, which was a tire plant in the Soviet period.

What are the most promising sectors in the current economic climate?

In the mid term, we are focusing on energy, oil and gas, telecoms, and geological areas, including gold and copper. Oil is a limited resource, and I believe it will return to a fair price, possibly $60-70 per barrel. That will also broaden the opportunities that are available to us. Nonetheless, diversification is crucial for the growth of our company and the country as a whole. It allows us to spread risk and also take advantage of different cycles in the economy in various fields and sectors, enabling us to move quickly to make the most of opportunities as they arise. A diversified portfolio is a balanced portfolio, and that's a key objective for us. This is not a large country population-wise—only 17 million people—which means that in order to be big, you must be diversified.

How important is it to reach out to international companies to make new partnerships?

This year our group became more present and visible than ever before. We launched a new website that is also in English. We are looking for international partners, particularly Chinese and Russian, with whom we have good working relations. Because of the economic situation, there aren't many investors coming to Kazakhstan right now, but things will eventually pick up.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

Depending on how the regional crisis develops, this year will not be easy. We expect the situation to improve around 2017-2018, though 2016 will still be an interesting year. We will continue to be active next year, and since we have focused on being diversified, we always have interesting areas to focus on. Currently, we are particularly focused on telecommunications. We want to create strong companies that lead their respective sectors, and that may mean going public to attract more investors.

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