Despite their ever-sour relations and the recent short war they fought over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, Georgia is planning to have the majority Russian shareholder in its state-owned Telasi power company finance the international offering of shares for the company. Russia’s INTER RAO owns 75% of Telasi, the power company in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, while Georgia retains a 24.53% stake (the remainder is owned by employees). According to EurasiaNet.org, Telasi shares are to be sold off by the end of this year. It has not yet been announced which international stock exchange will offer the shares.
The deal may seem strange in light of tense relations between Georgia and Russia over the former’s breakaway republics, among other things. But Georgia’s cash-strapped government is willing to overlook geopolitical concerns in the name of boosting its coffer, and there are rumors that the “international sale” of shares in Telasi could actually mean a sale of the rest of the government’s shares to INTER RAO itself. It is possible that the deal is being presented as an international sell-off in the face of likely public outrage at losing Telasi entirely to the Russians. Indeed, the government has not ruled out, publicly, that the Russian company may seek to increase its own shares in the company. A total takeover (or at least a 95% takeover) of Telasi by INTER RAO would give the company carte blanche with Tbilisi’s power source. Telasi, though it recently experienced some financial difficulties, is now showing a profit increase, according to EurasiaNet.org. Russia has taken major strides in recent years to acquire energy interest in the Caucasus region (most notably in Armenia and Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia).