Saturday, November 15, 2008

Banditocracy and HayPost

A day or so ago Haykakan Zhamanak published a news item about HayPost (see the text below).


Almost two years ago I had reflected on the purchase of the HayPost, the postal services of Armenia, to Dutch company. At the time I wondered whether it was reasonable for a Dutch company to invest in HayPost. When an investor acquires a distressed and run down organization like HayPost, there are large upfront monetary expenditures like capital investments. But an even greater challenge is to change the culture of that organization. Usually, if the company is distressed, it is because of incompetent management and the ensuing business-unfriendly practices in the company: HayPost is/was a corrupt organization. For example, one of the more unsavory characters in the town of Vanadzor is the director of the HayPost branch there.

But it seems the Dutch were determined to improve the situation so they invested a lot of effort into making HayPost a viable entity. And because the Armenian government kicked Western Union out, the only avenue for HayPost to make money became realistic as they could gain market share in the lucrative business of money transfers from abroad; it is not a secret that a major chunk of the Armenian GDP is sustained by the transfers from the expats in Russia, EU or the USA together with the grants and other foreign aid by the EU and US governments.

But as it goes in banditocracies, as soon as you start making money, or there is a hope of making money, somebody from the banditocracy will attempt to take it away from you. In Armenia it is done through violence. The Dutch director of HayPost was violently assaulted twice. Apparently, the first message was not clear enough so he was beaten up a second time just recently. A few days ago he resigned.

Having lost trust in Armenia, the Dutch will divest HayPost. The next owner of HayPost will most probably be Ernekian, an Argentinian businessman with close ties with the banditocracy and large business interests in the country such as the Zvartnots airport.

It is even possible that all this was planned before hand - the Western Union ban, the subsequent violence towards the Dutch, the Ernekian acquisition. But one thing is clear for me - if you have money to invest, keep it as far away as possible from Armenia.

Երեկ հայտնի դարձավ, որ «Հայփոստ» ընկերության գլխավոր գործադիր տնօրեն Հանս Բոոնը նախորդ օրը հրաժարական է ներկայացրել: Ընդ որում նա հրաժարական է ներկայացրել հեռակա կարգով: Նա մի քանի շաբաթ առաջ մեկնել է հայրենիք` Հոլանդիա եւ փոստով ներկայացրել հրաժարականի իր դիմումը: Ամենահետաքրքիրն այն է, թե որն է Բոոնի հրաժարականի պատճառը: Խնդիրն այն է, որ վերջին կես տարվա ընթացքում, օտարերկրացի Բոոնը Երեւանի կենտրոնում երկու անգամ դաժան ծեծի է ենթարկվել: Առաջին անգամ հունիսին Կարապի լճի մերձակայքում, իսկ երկրորդ անգամ` հոկտեմբերի սկզբին` Պուշկինի փողոցում: Առայժմ անհայտ է, թե ինչու է Բոոնը խուսափել է այս փաստերին հրապարակայնություն հաղորդել: Հայտնի է միայն, որ բժիշկների ասելով վերջին հարձակումը եղել է առանձնապես դաժան եւ նրան հասցված մարմնական վնասվածքները կարող էին մահացու լինել: Ըստ մեր ունեցած տեղեկությունների հենց այս հարձակումներն են դարձել Բոոնի հրաժարականի պատճառ` օտարերկրացին, Հոլանդական “Haypost Trust Management” ընկերության կառավարման ներքո գտնվող Հայաստանի խոշորագույն ընկերություններից մեկի` «Հայփոստի» եվրոպացի գլխավոր գործադիր տնօրենը իրեն անվտանգ չի զգում ոստիկանապետության վերածված Հայաստանի Հանրապետության մայրաքաղաքի կենտրոնում: Սա շատ լավ գովազդ է մեր երկրի համար: Սրանից հետո, թերեւս, Տիգրան Սարգսյանը հիմքեր կունենա խոսելու Հայաստանը օտարերկրյա ներդրողների համար դրախտ դարձնելու եւ Հայաստանը միջազգային ֆինանսական, տեխնոլոգիական, մշակութային ու էլի եսիմինչ կենտրոնի վերածելու մասին:

Հ.Գ. Ի դեպ, «Հայփոստ» ըկերության կառավարումը շուտով կստանձնի արգենտինահայ գործարար Էդուրադո Էռնեկյանին պատկանող ընկերություններին: Սպասվում է, որ փոխանցման գործընթացը կավարտվի առաջիկա մեկ երկու ամիսների ընթացքում:

7 comments:

Ani said...

I'd been trying to figure out that story, so thanks (I think) for providing the context. The name Tigran Sargsyan sort of sticks out of your 2006 post...

I think the Dutch won't exactly be silent on this, so anybody expecting warm and fuzzy feelings from the EU and the OSCE toward Armenia may be disappointed.

Meanwhile, I guess everybody sending money to and from Armenia should expect a bigger slice taken out before long, huh?

nazarian said...

Depending how much money the Dutch get out of Ernekian, they may still come out ahead. It depends how Ernekian values the future cash flows and how much the Dutch have spent so far.

And how much will they give for the pain and suffering of the beaten up director?

Ani said...

What is it with these guys and language?

http://www.a1plus.am/en/?page=issue&id=66333

WHAT HAPPENED TO “HAYPOST” DIRECTOR WAS UNDESIRABLE

“Investigation of “Haypost” director’s letter is underway,” told “A1+” today RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan.

After two assaults in Yerevan, Dutch director of “Haypost” Hans Boon has left for his homeland and has presented his resignation to Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan. Boon has undergone a medical exam in Amsterdam and as a result, he has a major head injury which will take two months to cure.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said that such incidents are undesirable for Armenia and that they are going to do their best to prevent future incidents.

According to Sargsyan, he has personally received Hans Boon’s letter and has assigned the control service to investigate.

“I have already assigned my subdivisions to check if the events that he mentioned in the letter are true, conduct investigation and demand notices, reports from all competent bodies and inform me,” told “A1+” Tigran Sargsyan and added that the results of the investigation will soon be presented to the mass media outlets.

Minister of Economy Nerses Yeritsyan also considered the incident as a bad precedent.

“As Minister of Economy, I wouldn’t want to see such a thing, but everything will be clear after the investigation,” told “A1+”.

Let us recall that Hans Boon headed “Haypost” since July 25, 2007.
----------------------

Golly gee whiz, d'ya think it was also "undesirable" for Boon to get his head bashed in twice?????

c0nsciousness said...

"But one thing is clear for me - if you have money to invest, keep it as far away as possible from Armenia."

Although I'm not going to argue specifically about the matter at hand, I disagree with your near-sighted statement about personal investment in Armenia. Given Armenia's geopolitical situation, the condition of the international market, and fluctuating foreign currencies, it is vital that Armenia continues to receive foreign direct investments and new business establishments. Had the situation in Armenia and in the international market been different, then maybe, warning others to invest in Armenia MAY help deter such domestic practices in fear of losing further investment. However, the situation is what it is and in order for Armenia to progress (in comparison with regional rivals) and for its economy to grow, we need to encourage investment and look at other alternatives and DOMESTIC solutions to such corrupt practices and Soviet-remnant habits.

nazarian said...

consciousness, you are absolutely right about the need for Armenia to be a destination for foreign investment. But look at it from an investor's perspective. It is already a risky place to bring your capital - it's a country at war. That can be overlooked if the returns are high enough.

But on top of that, there is no guarantee of property rights. If you do not participate in the banditocracy, which at least for the US investors is illegal, you will end up losing your money. The only investors in such a climate are going to be organizations which come from countries where corruption is an acceptable means of business. That's why you have so many businesses that are owned by the Russians.

One thing is unclear for me - Cafesjian is an American and yet does business in Armenia. I suspect that he either is very skilled in greasing palms or his bribes are not monetary. I think that's why his TV station is always behind the banditocracy.

nazarian said...

BTW, if an investor is going to invest money without any anticipation for returns then it's charity and not investment. Charity is usually not the best way of creating prosperity in a given economy and should be reserved for crisis management, not development. Charity is beneficial after an earthquake, during active warfare (or its immediate aftermath) or some other calamity.

Once things calm down then you switch from charity to development.

Ani said...

Regarding Cafesjian (and I have no idea what's true), there is also a third possibility--what we call "the exception that proves the rule." Perhaps he gets a free pass because then he can be a lure for everybody else? And if he does, then he's supportive and doesn't believe what others say about their experiences? Quite often, the biggest fish aren't made to play by the same rules, because there's value seen in dealing honestly with the most influential and/or richest guy. Casino logic...

Consciousness, of course it's vital for Armenia, but that's why the system desperately needs to be reformed and a democracy established--and regardless of some silly statements I read recently, Armenia is definitely NOT a beacon of democracy!