Lukashenka says that stays away from MAZ-KamAZ link-up talks

Alyaksandr Lukashenka says that he is not involved in negotiations on the establishment of Rosbelavto, a joint holding company that would control Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) and Russia’s truck company KamAZ...


Alyaksandr Lukashenka says that he is not involved in negotiations on the establishment of Rosbelavto, a joint holding company that would control Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) and Russia’s truck company KamAZ.

"I have simply moved away from them after the last conversation with the prime minister of the Russian Federation," the Belarusian leader said in an interview broadcast on October 8 by the Mir Television and Radio Company of the Commonwealth of Independent States. "We discussed this issue with the president of Russia, but the last conversation was with Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev."

According to Mr. Lukashenka, he and Mr. Medvedev concluded that some business managers in Russia and Belarus who should be dealing with the link-up project try to shift their responsibility to politicians.

"Dmitry Anatolyevich rightly pointed out that we shouldn't butt in on the talks at a high level," Mr. Lukashenka said. "Let MAZ and KamAZ talk and put forward specific proposals. If they agree, so be it, it's our royal matter, as they say in Russia, to sanctify this."

In February 2011, Rostekhnologii (Russian Technologies), a state corporation that holds a 49.9-percent stake in KamAZ, proposed a deal whereby the Russian truck maker would hold 100 percent of MAZ, while the Belarusian government would receive a stake in KamAZ in exchange. Minsk, for its part, proposed establishing Rosbelavto, which would have 49-percent stakes in both MAZ and KamAZ.

First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka said in late June that Belarus wanted its contribution to Rosbelavto to be 75 percent minus one share of MAZ.

According to Mr. Syamashka, as a result of a lengthy discussion, the parties eventually agreed that the market value of MAZ was $1.1 billion. "The participants of the negotiation process recognized this valuation as fair," he said, adding that the market value of KamAZ was estimated at $1.6 billion.

"As calculations showed, if KamAZ contributes the 49.9-percent stake belonging to the government, MAZ has to contribute 75 percent, but we want to retain 25 percent plus one share to have influence on these processes," he said. "We would thereby reach parity for the parties and decisions would be made by consensus and neither of the parties would feel slighted."

This is what was proposed to the Russian side and a positive reply was received, Mr. Syamashka said. The president of Belarus also approved this plan "and that is why I think the holding company will be established on these terms," he noted.

Mr. Lukashenka warned on June 14 that the Belarusian government would not agree to a link-up between MAZ and KamAZ unless Belarus had a 50-percent stake in the holding company. "But a fifty-fifty arrangement does not suit the leadership of that corporation [Rostekhnologii]," the Belarusian leader said. "They want a majority stake and say that Belarus is asking too high a price. Okay, if the price is too high, then don`t agree [to it]. Let's work today. MAZ trucks are by no means worse than KamAZ trucks and customers are buying them with pleasure, and not only in post-Soviet countries but also in Russia."

Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich claimed at a news conference in mid-September that Russia did not object to Rosbelavto being owned on a parity basis. At the same time he noted that Russia was concerned about possible difficulties in managing a fifty-fifty owned company. "Fifty-fifty ownership can lead to a deadlock in decision-making," he said. "Therefore, we’ll discuss, among other things, the mechanisms that would allow us to make decisions that would not impede the production process and marketing activities."

Mr. Myasnikovich noted that he would discuss the issue with his Russian counterpart during their meeting in Yalta, Ukraine, on September 28.

Rostekhnologii Director General Sergei Chemezov said at the end of September that Belarusian-Russian negotiations on the establishment of Rosbelavto were proceeding very slowly.

According to Mr. Chemezov, Ernst&Young has recently estimated the value of KamAZ at $2-odd billion, up from slightly more than $1 billion two years ago.

As Mr. Chemezov said, in 2011, Ernst&Young put the value of MAZ at only $800 million, but the estimate has now increased to some $1.6 billion.