Turkmenistan has long been off limits for foreign investors, but the country has seen significant changes in the last few years. Its GDP in 2010 was $41 billion (£27 billion) and a steady growth of 10 per cent, coupled with a growing population of 5.5 million, means investment experts are starting to sit up and take notice.
Central Asia is fast becoming a goldmine for the frontier investor and a big reason for this is the sheer amount of natural resources the area offers. It also sits in a strategic position between the huge economies of India and China, meaning investors can serve these countries at a fraction of the cost. Having the edge on other investors leaves this market relatively untapped and also opens up opportunities that many other experts have missed.
With Kazakhstan holding 99 of the Periodic Table’s 110 elements in mined and mineable reserves, Uzbekistan enjoying the fourth largest gold reserves in the world and Azerbaijan being the first country to have an offshore oil well (way back in 1803), the countries in Central Asia have plenty to offer the frontier investor – and Turkmenistanis no different.
Turkmenistan’s main attraction for potential foreign investors is its gas – the South Yolotan gas field is the second largest in the world. This particular field could power the UK alone for 350 years and provide gas to the whole of Europe for 50 years – a fact that has seen China lend Turkmenistan $3 billion in development funds.
The nation is also the world’s ninth largest cotton producer but gas is what experts say will fuel the country’s burgeoning reputation as a hotbed for investment potential. The Central Asia-China pipeline is the first pipe to bring the area’s gas to China and transports a whopping 40 billion cubic metres every year, but what opportunities does the country hold for investment?
The publicly traded universe is limited and therefore there is plenty of room for new investors – whatever your budget or business plan. As far as compelling opportunities in Turkmenistan, the potential for growth capital and pre-IPO financing are attracting the frontier investor and amid some striking reforms, the markets are opening and the investment landscape is changing significantly.
Recently, a number of countries have tried to woo the powers that be in Turkmenistan as people begin to wake up to the potential this Central Asian state offers. Delegations from India, China, Russia, Iran and the European Union have all travelled to the Turkmen capital Ashgabat to meet with President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and other senior officials, and just as countries spy the investment opportunities so can foreign investors with the funds to follow suit.
Now Turkmenistan is much more accessible and has been opened up to the possibility of a foreign influx, both physically and financially, the country appears to have a bright future. Such a resource-rich country was always going to be attractive to foreign investors but now more doors are opening, it is fast becoming one of the hottest investment properties in the world.