Bank of Georgia is Georgia’s largest bank by assets, is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and is on the FTSE 250 index.
Originally founded in 1903 and nationalised by the Soviets, it was re-privatised in 1994 when it was given its current name, Bank of Georgia. Bank of Georgia has been working with the EBRD since 1995.
“Access to finance in the 1990s was critical, and the EBRD provided that”, said Murtaz Kikoria, deputy CEO for finance. “But what the EBRD also brought to the whole sector, not just to Bank of Georgia, was technical assistance and support in establishing the very notions of corporate governance structures and risk management.”
Mr Kikoria speaks about the prominent EBRD role in the sector from more than one perspective. Before joining Bank of Georgia, he held two other significant jobs – one as a banking regulator, and another at the EBRD itself.
“The big turnaround in Bank of Georgia happened in 2004-2005 when a new management team, fully backed and supported by the EBRD, came to the bank. Three people from the EBRD itself joined: the CEO, Irakli Gilauri, and his two deputies, including myself. This was a huge change not only for Bank of Georgia but for the whole sector.”
In December 2008 the EBRD joined forces with other international institutions and governments to help Georgia in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the war.
Part of the EBRD’s financing package was provided to Bank of Georgia, and in 2012 it was converted into a 5 per cent equity stake.
In September 2014, the EBRD sold its entire holding in Bank of Georgia. Today, the two banks partner to provide finance to local businesses through credit lines for corporates, SMEs, agriculture, energy efficiency, through trade finance facilities and innovative services like factoring.
“Over the years we have provided close to US$ 1 billion to our clients with the EBRD’s help,” said Mr Kikoria. EBRD credit lines really bring discipline not only to banks but to sub-borrowers too: companies need to improve their financial reporting, accounting and corporate governance.”
Bank of Georgia does have experience of working in other countries in the region, but for now its expansion plans are firmly linked to the homeland.
“There is enough business in Georgia,” said Mr Kikoria. “We invest in healthcare and insurance and we know investment is needed in sectors like tourism, energy, transport and logistics. We are experts in investing in Georgia, we know the country very well and we believe it has a lot of promise”.