EBRD to finance the expansion of compressed natural gas facilities in Georgia

By Loretta  Martikian

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has arranged a US$ 65 million syndicated loan to its longstanding client, Wissol Petroleum Georgia (Wissol) to support the expansion of gas filling stations in Georgia that offer compressed natural gas (CNG), an environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional fuels.

The loan consists of an “A” loan of up to US$ 40 million for the EBRD’s own account, and a “B” loan of up to US$ 25 million, to be syndicated to the Dutch development bank FMO.This is the first corporate sector syndication in Georgia with a local private partner and an international bank.

The syndicated loan will support the ambitious investment programme of Wissol, which aims to open up to 38 new CNG filling stations that will use advanced equipment. The programme will also improve the infrastructure of the company’s existing stations, providing CNG along with other fuels and using modern energy efficiency technologies, thus helping the Wissol stations to meet higher environmental standards. Wissol has benefited from an energy audit funded by the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility (EU NIF) under the “Energy Efficiency Programme for the Corporate Sector”.

Wissol Petroleum Georgia, part of the Wissol Group, is one of the largest business groups in Georgia, a leading independent private importer and distributor of petroleum products with a significant share in the local Georgian market.

During the signing of the project in Tbilisi, Bruno Balvanera, EBRD Director for Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus, said: “We are excited to support this new project and our longstanding partner Wissol in the evolution of the modern fuel retail market. This project will ensure that Georgian customers continue to receive more economical and environmentally-friendly alternatives to petrol.”

Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer of FMO, added: “At FMO we are proud to be working with our partners to improve environmental standards in Georgia. This facility will enable Wissol to take the next steps in making the necessary improvements to energy efficiency.”

Samson Pkhakadze, Wissol Group President, commented: “This is a significant event not only for Wissol Group, but for the Georgian economy as a whole. We are proud to be the first Georgian company from the corporate sector to obtain a syndicated loan. The facility will enable us to create more jobs, to bring cleaner and safer fuel to the public and to improve energy efficiency in our everyday operations. We are grateful to the EBRD and FMO for their outstanding support in Wissol’s quest for excellence.”

This facility is in line with the EBRD’s strategy to finance the development and expansion of high-quality, independent fuel retailers while increasing competition in the sector. It is also consistent with the Bank’s promotion of the local private sector and the adoption of best environmental practices.

The EBRD has been active in Georgia since the country’s independence. To date, the Bank has invested in 169 projects with over US$ 2 billion across various sectors of the Georgian economy. One of the EBRD’s priorities in Georgia is to support the sustainable development of the private sector.