When the USSR collapsed in December 1991, the emerging fifteen new nations scrambled amidst hyperinflation to restructure their economies away from a centrally planned economy directed by Moscow to sovereign, free market ones that could attract desperately needed foreign direct investment (FDI).
The clear winners in this have been two Caspian nations, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. While Azerbaijan might have won the initial PR investment race, knowledgeable investors are also closely eying Kazakhstan.
Azeri President Heydar Aliyev, realizing that his nation’s indigenous resources were insufficient to develop the country’s hydrocarbon riches, in September 1994 signed the $7.4 billion “deal of the century” with 11 Western oil companies to develop a number of sites in both onshore and offshore Azerbaijan, including the Chirag and the offshore Guneshli oil fields, with the centerpiece of the infrastructure development being the construction by an international consortium of the $3.6 billion, 1 million barrel per day (bpd), 1,092-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which transmits crude from Azerbaijan's offshore Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli fields to Turkey's deepwater Mediterranean terminus at Ceyhan.
In a striking measure of how open Azerbaijan had become for investment, British Petroleum heads the BTC consortium and, besides operating the pipeline, has a 30.1 percent share of the project, exceeding that of SOCAR, which owns 25 percent. Other Western…