- Ukrposhta has won permission to offer limited banking services to clients of the national postal service. The National Bank of Ukraine extended privileges on Wednesday “in order to increase access to financial services for the transfer of funds, in particular in rural areas and remote regions of Ukraine, stimulating the development of cashless payments.” Ukraine’s four big state-owned banks oppose the creation of a postal bank. But Igor Smelyansky, the US-trained acting CEO of Ukrposhta, argues that 10 million Ukrainians, many of them elderly, do not live within five kilometers of a bank branch.
- The central bank has revoked the banking licenses of two more small banks -- Apex Bank and Industrial and Financial Bank -- under the new procedure of voluntary termination of banking activities. Kateryna Rozhkova, deputy chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, praised the owners’ recognition that their banks had failed as “an adult step.”
- UNIAN headlines: “PM Groysman to Ukroboronprom CEO: "Look for another job." The news agency reports that the Prime Minister is submitting to President Poroshenko a motion to dismiss Roman Romanov, CEO of the state-owned military industry conglomerate. The public pretext is Romanov’s failure to follow through on government order to pay back salaries to shipyard workers in Mykolaiv. Separately, Interfax reports that anti-corruption activists and “representatives of the Western military establishment” may be appointed to Ukroboronprom’s supervisory board.
- Five Ukrainian rockets launched payloads into space this year – three for the European Space Agency, one for NASA, and one for Russia’s Roscosmos, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Roscosmos initially reported that Tuesday’s launch was successful, but later reported it lost contact with the payload, Angola’s first telecommunications satellite. Ukraine plans to launch its own communications satellite Lybid in the second half of 2018. The Space Agency of Ukraine estimates that Ukraine’s space industry expanded by almost one third in 2017.
- Construction grew by 22.5% nationwide through November, compared to the same period last year. Of the $3 billion in building, the hot spots were: Zhytomyr +45%; Kirovohrad +41%; Odesa +40.3%; Dnipropetrovsk +29% and Kyiv city +31%. Building decreased in only four regions: Luhansk -27%; Sumy -4%; Volyn -0.6%; and Zakarpattia -0.2%.
- Half of Ukraine’s elevators were installed during the Soviet era, making for an enticing modernization market, OTIS Ukraine general director Ladislav Zeman tells Interfax. With 500 employees and elevators in over 20 Ukrainian cities, the American company lifts 8 million Ukrainians a day.
- Agrarian Fund, one of Ukraine’s largest state food companies, boosted its flour exports by 70% in 2017 to 17,000 tons, according to Novoe Vremya. Boosted by this results, Andriy Radchenko, director general the fund, said he is talking with a Turkish supplier of milling equipment. He told the business weekly: “We're considering the possibility of building a modern milling complex. We're trying hard to raise Turkish financing under the project.”
- Sugar production is matching last’s year production of 2 million tons, reports Ukrtsukor, the National Association of Sugar Producers. Exports should hit 500,000 tons.
- Norteda, a Lithuanian oil trader, plans to invest over $10 million in processing of Ukrainian grains and oilseeds. On opening an office in Kyiv, Igor Shklyarus, UAB Agrarinė norteda, said: "Today Ukraine is one of the most attractive agrarian countries of Eastern Europe. We are considering investment projects for the storage and processing of cereals, are also ready to finance and process oilseeds."
- To jumpstart a year of privatizations, the State Property Fund plans to auction off shares in eight state companies, during the week of Jan. 17-23. Total sales may only net $1.4 million, but the Fund hopes it will spark investor interests. Interfax reports that minority holdings will be sold in: Ukrnafteprodukt, Stebnitsky mining and chemical enterprise, Polymineral, Ukrhudozprom, Boryspil Enterprise Sortasninnovoch, Scientific and Technical Test Center Spectrum-T, and Brailovsky base of storage and sale of plant protection products. A majority holding -- 89.5% of shares – will be sold in Bila Tserkva Rubber Technical Products Plant.
- The Prosecutor General's Office of intends to recover in early 2018 another $180 million illegally obtained by runaway ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and his allies, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In September, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko reported that the state budget had received the first part of $200 million confiscated from Yanukovych and his team.
- Low interest loans and technical expertise for renewable energy may flow from Ukraine joining the International Renewable Energy Agency. On Wednesday, President Poroshenko a law allowing to join the decade old association of 154 member nations.
- AVentures Capital has invested $3.5 million in seven Ukrainian IT startups in the past 18 months. Andriy Kolodiuk, managing partner of the Kyiv-based investment firm, tells reporters that the average investment is $500,000. In the last year, the fund has invested in Spinbackup, Bookimed, Teamfusion, and Petcube. He said: “Three more deals for $500,000-$1.5 million remain secret, including with two companies at the growth phase with over 100 employees.” He said his firm is negotiating with a dozen companies and plans to invest in 2-3 in the first half of 2018.
- Ukraine has issued a tender for dredging its two Azov Sea ports, Mariupol and Berdyansk, Xinhua reports. China’s news agency may have noticed the tender before Ukraine’s media because China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd. is dredging Ukraine’s busiest Black Sea port, Yuzhny, and is bidding to dredge a second port, Chornomorsk. On its website, Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority says the deadline for Azov Sea bids is Feb. 2. For what could be an $18 million contract, China Harbor has two advantages: it already has equipment in the region, and Russia, which now controls two thirds of the Azov coastline, is not expected to interfere with a Chinese company.
- Ukraine should reassume its historic role as a transit country between east and west, says Boris Kolesnikov, co-chair of the Opposition Bloc party. Kolesnikov, a Donetsk native, expressed the feelings of many Eastern Ukrainians when he told reporters in Kyiv Wednesday that Ukraine’s trade war with Russia had left Eastern Ukraine at a commercial dead end. Referring to Russia, a country with an economy 16 times larger than Ukraine’s, he said: "The resumption of transit is the number one task. We lost all transit during political actions and applications. We lost aviation and automobile transit."
- Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan is confident the Ryanair will enter Ukraine next year. He told Priamy TV Channel Wednesday: "It will enter next year - 200%." Earlier, he told Expreso TV that he is talking with two other discount airlines. He predicted: “There is an 80 percent probability that they will enter the Ukrainian market next year.” These two airlines would have 49 percent foreign capital and 51 percent Ukrainian, an ownership structure that would allow them to conduct domestic flights.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org