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Uzbekistan makes a pitch for foreign investors

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Uzbekistan promises to transform its stock and bond markets in an effort to lure much-needed capital from abroad. Roadshows, tax cuts and easing of restrictions are on the agenda as Tashkent prepares to sell off state assets. 

Uzbekistan’s officials are on a mission to reform the country’s capital markets. Their goal? To pull off a slew of privatizations, IPOs and debt issues so that by offering a wider array of stocks and bonds, they can entice foreign investors and raise much-needed funds for government coffers and to rejuvenate state and private-sector companies.

The government began working on its overall reform agenda after Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected president in 2016. Taking charge of an economy dominated by lumbering state players, his first decisive move was to open up business and finance to the private sector.

In late 2020, the government said it would fully or partly privatize more than 620 state-owned companies and properties to turn the former Soviet republic into a more dynamic market economy. However, critics complain that the focus has been on the partial divestment of small or non-core state assets, rather than the privatization of bigger, more important companies.

Uzbekistan’s economy managed to weather the Covid-19 pandemic relatively well. It grew 1.7% in real growth terms in 2020, one of the few countries to maintain positive real growth, according to an S&P Global Ratings report. GDP growth is expected to come in at 6.5%

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