By Riccardo Puliti of the EBRD

Until recently the Nabucco pipeline, just like the chorus in Verdi’s opera of the same name, was a symbol of freedom. It was designed as an alternative route for large quantities of natural gas coming into Europe, reducing the continent’s dependency on the Soviet-built pipeline system that runs from East to West.

But the Nabucco dream did not become reality, mainly because it would not transport enough gas to make it viable and especially because Turkmenistan, a big producer of natural gas, was not part of the project. However, this vision of independence could yet live on in another guise – but only if there is the political will to drive it forward. Read more

Turkey and Azerbaijan have further cemented their close relations with the signing of a $3.29bn credit agreement for the Turkish subsidiary of Azeri state oil company Socar, for the construction of a 10bn tonnes a year oil refinery to be constructed at Aliaga on Turkey’s Aegean coast.

The credit package, formally agreed on Friday, is both the largest single project finance agreement in Turkish history and, at 18 years, the deal with the longest maturity to date. Read more

Imagine you are a young business in a former Soviet Republic, about to enter a greenfield investment with new Russian partners in a project in Russia for which you are providing the $1bn investment capital. Given the recent events in Ukraine, would you be feeling more or less nervous than you were a few months ago?

“We know that we are vulnerable,” says Nasib Piriyev, chief executive of the Azerbaijan Methanol Company. “Moscow has inherited the policies of the Soviet Union and it works with the same instruments.” Read more

Nobody seriously doubted that Ilham Aliyev would be re-elected for a third term as president of Azerbaijan in Wednesday’s poll. Indeed, Aliyev was so confident of victory, which he took with a resounding 84.55 per cent of the vote, that he did not even bother to campaign. “The fact that this election was free and transparent is another serious step towards democracy,” he said.

Camil Hasanli, the main opposition leader, cried foul and described the election as an exercise in vote-rigging. Despite representing a coalition of some 20 opposition parties, the 61-year-old historian received only 5.53 percent of the vote. Read more


Ordinarily the announcement of a pre-qualification tender for the construction of a pipeline wouldn’t rate much coverage outside of specialist news services.

But the publication Tuesday of adverts by the Trans Anatolian Gas Pipeline company (Tanap) requesting applications from companies interested in building its 1,800km gas line is a little different. It represents the beginning of the end of an EU plan hatched over a decade ago to bring gas from the Caspian basin west to European markets in competition to Russian gas. Read more

Nebuchadnezzar's Lion

After over a decade of endeavour, the grand Nabucco pipeline plan seems doomed. On Wednesday, Austria’s OMV, one of the principal partners, revealed that the consorium has lost the battle to bring Azeri gas from the Caspian Sea to central Europe. Baku is expected to announce on Friday that the contract will go instead to TAP, a modest rival scheme, which will supply southern Europe.

For the EU, which loudly backed Nabucco, it’s a political setback in its wide-ranging effort to reduce EU dependence on imported Russia gas. But it’s not a total defeat – Azeri gas will still come to the EU, only in smaller volumes. So the EU’s energy security will still benefit. Read on for the full story from the FT’s James Shotter.

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The Azeri dialect of Turkish may sound strange to Turkish ears but it is perfectly intelligible and the increasing economic and political cooperation between the two states represents as much a common culture as the geographical imperative that makes Turkey the perfect export route for Azerbaijan’s sizeable reserves of oil and gas reserves. Read more

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, transforming itself in a few years from a war-ravaged backwater into an increasingly assertive presence on the regional stage. Its emergence can largely be attributed to its hydrocarbon resources, marshalled by the government-owned State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (Socar).

Now Socar aims to play a central role in the diversification of gas supplies to Europe. Read more

As the guardian of the nation’s oil windfall, Azerbaijan’s state oil fund has traditionally been a highly conservative investor. But as the global economic slowdown takes the shine off fixed income instruments, Sofaz has embarked on a quest for higher yields. After a first foray into gold and European luxury real estate last year, the fund is sizing up the property market in southeast Asia. Read more

It’s not often a story links Mexico and Azerbaijan. But here’s a hilarious tale of what went wrong when Baku put up a statue in Mexico City to its late lamented president, the former KGB boss Heydar Aliyev.

It comes courtesy of Slate. To read on, click hereRead more

Baku old and new, a mosque in front of the fire towers June 2011For some truly daring frontier market investors Azerbaijan is beginning to look interesting, as a report in Monday’s FTfm explains.

There is no doubt that it has long term potential. In the 19th century Baku became known as the Black Gold Capital of the world and it remains rich in undeveloped petroleum resources. Its position in central Asia between the east and the west on the Caspian sea put it firmly on the old Silk Road and also gave it a rich trading history. Read more

Total’s announcement this month of huge reserves at its offshore Absheron field in Azerbaijan does not on its own transform the European energy market.

At an estimated 150-300bn cubic metres (bcm), the gas field contains the equivalent of four to eight months of EU annual gas consumption.

But Total‘s news changes the picture for Azerbaijan, say experts, because it creates the tantalising possibility that the country could yield more such finds – and grow into a major gas source for the EU. Read more

It seems unlikely that Butlins, ClubMed or Westin will branch into the hydrocarbons sector any time soon. But the State Oil and Company of Azerbaijan Republic (Socar) is planning to invest €258m to turn a plot of military land in Montenegro into a tourist resort.

Even competitors say such a chunky investment in Montenegro’s tourism would be a boon for the tiny Balkan country, which is busily establishing itself as a holiday destination.

But it remains to be seen whether Socar will complete the deal – which has run into a legal challenge – let alone make it pay, given its lack of experience in international tourism. Read more

A statement by a senior BP official this week that the Nabucco pipeline was a lost cause may not be the final word on the much-delayed project to bring Caspian gas to Europe. But the European Union is being optimistic if it thinks Nabucco is alive and kicking. If the project stands any chance of happening in the short term it will be much smaller than originally conceived. Read more

Eurovision kicks off Tuesday night in Baku and the Azerbaijani capital is decked out to the nines. The city’s imported London taxis are emblazoned with Eurovision designs and traffic billboards tick down the days to the song contest’s finale on Saturday which the government says it has spent $100m preparing for.

As thousands of first-time tourists start to pour into Baku from continental Europe, the country’s ministry of culture and tourism is looking at the first big test – and advertisement – for the country’s nascent tourism industry. Read more

ExxonMobil has just consummated its strategic partnership with Rosneft so it’s nice for BP, which failed last year in its attempt to tie up with the Russian state oil company, to have something positive to report.

The UK major announced plans on Tuesday to begin the design work for the second phase of the huge Shah Deniz gas project that will supply Caspian gas to European markets and help reduce their dependence on Russian energy supplies. Read more

By Rob Minto and Pan Kwan Yuk

What to do when your domestic market is saturated and slow? Go overseas, of course. The question is when and how difficult a market to pick. For clothes retailer Gap, the answers seem to be: ‘now’ and ‘any’.

Gap is opening two stores in South Africa on Tuesday and Wednesday with wholesale partner Stuttafords in Johannesburg and Cape Town. And perhaps more adventurously, it plans to open in Lebanon, Georgia and Azerbaijan this year. Read more

Azerbaijan traditionally plays safe with its oil windfall, buying mainly US bonds and treasury bills. But now the country is following a trend set by other sovereign wealth funds, and investing more adventurously in gold, real estate and private equities.

A lot of money is at stake. The state oil fund of Azerbaijan has accumulated more than $29bn since its foundation in 1999 as a storehouse for the country’s oil export revenues and earnings from transit pipeline fees. Read more

The choice of Christmas day for the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Azerbaijan and Turkey for the construction of a new pipeline to carry Azeri gas to Europe, was quite possibly deliberate.

The signing of the MOU for the Trans Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) finally commits Azerbaijan to guaranteeing to supply gas from its Shah Deniz field to Europe via Turkey. Read more

The US has always been a cheerleader for the planned Nabucco pipeline to carry Caspian gas to Europe to compete with Russian supplies. But as Nabucco’s search for gas producers to support the project wears into an eighth year, even Washington has begun to pipe down. Read more