Russian business in Georgia. Who are its key players?

Russian business in Georgia

There are over 32 thousand companies owned by Russian citizens or companies operating in Georgia. Out of these, approximately 26,000 were registered in the last two years, specifically after the commencement of the Ukrainian-Russian war.

Before 2022, Russian companies primarily participated in significant business ventures in Georgia. Moreover, many small and medium-sized companies established by Russian citizens were effectively owned by individuals of Georgian ethnicity holding Russian passports.

Nevertheless, the scenario underwent a substantial shift since March 2022.

From the onset of the war in Ukraine, thousands of Russian citizens relocated to live in Georgia, with many promptly initiating entrepreneurial activities.

While Russian citizens traditionally registered several hundred companies annually in Georgia, the landscape has altered significantly since March 2022, witnessing the registration of over a thousand Russian companies in just one month.

Number of companies registered in Georgia by Russian citizens. Source of information: Transparency International-Georgia, Register of Entrepreneurs

As of March 2022, 96 percent of Russian businesses registered in Georgia are individual enterprises. In other words, they are small businesses or collaborate with various companies as entrepreneurs.

When registering a company in Georgia, it is not obligatory to specify the field of activity, making it challenging to maintain accurate statistics. However, after a certain period, when the company has commenced its operations, the sphere of activity becomes evident.

Subsequently, the activities of more than two thousand companies registered since 2022 have been identified. According to the research conducted by Transparency International-Georgia, 80 percent of these companies operate in the field of information technology (IT).

IT specialists often choose to register as entrepreneurs and enter into partnership agreements with employers, thereby benefiting from tax advantages.

Following closely, design and advertising activities constitute 5.3 percent of newly registered companies. Additionally, 4.7 percent operate in education, arts, and entertainment, while 3.5 percent are engaged in retail, restaurants, and hotels.

Large Russian Businesses in Georgia

Prominent Russian companies have established their presence in nearly every sector of the Georgian economy, spanning energy, heavy and light industry, transportation infrastructure, the financial sector, gaming, trade, and the restaurant business, among others.

JAMnews has sought information on 21 major companies operating in diverse sectors of the Georgian economy, all of which are either wholly or predominantly owned by Russian citizens or Russian companies.

What unites them is that none of these companies was registered in the last 10 years; the majority of them entered the Georgian market earlier.

Experts note that it’s essential to consider that Russian citizens frequently initiate businesses in Georgia through offshore-registered companies, adding complexity to the task of locating them and discerning the true ownership.

Energy

In the strategically vital sector of energy, a substantial portion of investments comes from Russian companies.

  • JSC Telasi
  • JSC Khrami HPP-1
  • JSC Khrami HPP-2
  • Mtkvary Energy CHPP
  • Larsi-HPP
  • Shilda HPP
  • Unified Energy System “SakRusenergo”

Joint Stock Company (JSC) Telasi is the entity holding the exclusive right to supply and distribute electricity in Tbilisi. Currently, 75.5 percent of this company remains under the ownership of the Russian company Inter RAO. The remaining 24.5 percent is held by Energy Company, owned by Georgian businessmen Khvicha Makatsaria and Mamuka Togonidze.

Entering the Georgian market in 2003, Inter RAO, in collaboration with Telasi, acquired two significant energy facilities in Georgia – Khrami HPP-1 and Khrami HPP-2, both regulating hydroelectric power plants on the Khram River. These hydroelectric power plants, initiated in 1947, stand as the oldest of their kind in Georgia.

Khrami HPP-1 and Khrami HPP-2 generated 551 million kWh of electricity in 2022, accounting for four percent of the total electricity production in Georgia for that year.

Energia LLC, under the ownership of Russian citizen Mevlyudi Bliadze, also holds a 70 percent stake in the small hydroelectric power plants Larsi HPP and Shilda HPP, with the remaining 30 percent owned by the Georgian company Fer LLC.

SakRusenergo United Energy System is another significant energy company, with a 50 percent ownership split between the Russian state-owned company Federal Grid Company of the Unified Energy System (FGC UES PJSC) and the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia for the remaining 50 percent.

Established in 1996 through an agreement on energy cooperation between the Government of Georgia and the Joint Stock Company “United Energy System of Russia” (RAO EES Russia), SakRusenergo primarily focuses on providing electricity transmission through its high-voltage transmission lines in Georgia and neighboring countries, including Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. Some of the company’s transmission lines are situated within the territory of the Russian Federation.

Natural Resources

  • RMG Copper JSC,
  • RMG Gold LLC

RMG Copper JSC and RMG Gold LLC are under the ownership of Mining Investment LLC, ultimately owned by Dmitry Troitsky, a Russian citizen. The primary activities of these companies involve the mining and processing of ores containing copper and gold. “RMG Gold” holds a license for mining and processing minerals at the Sakdrisi deposit. The exploration of this deposit to extract ore faced strong opposition from the Georgian public, as Sakdrisi held the status of a cultural heritage monument.

Industry

  • IDS Borjomi
    LLC Wimm-Bill-Dann Georgia
  • LLC Tiflis Vinnie Pogreb

LLC The branch of “IDS Borjomi Beverages Company” LLC was registered in Georgia in 1997. This branch holds a license to utilize the Borjomi Gorge and other water sources in Georgia. “IDS Borjomi” is a company specializing in the production of mineral and natural waters, including “Borjomi,” “Likani,” and “Bakuriani.”

The company is registered offshore, in the Netherlands Antilles, making it challenging to obtain information about its owners. However, it is known that the largest stake in the company is held by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman. Following the commencement of the war in Ukraine, Mikhail Fridman faced sanctions from Western countries and subsequently transferred a 7.73 percent stake to the Georgian government. While he relinquished control over the company, he remains one of its owners to this day.

Wimm-Bill-Dann Georgia LLC is wholly owned by Wimm-Bill-Dann Joint Stock Company, registered in Russia. The primary area of activity for this company is the production of dairy products and the distribution of imported milk and beverages.

LLC “Tiflis Vinnie Pogreb” is entirely owned by LLC “DK-Service,” registered in Russia. The main activities of Tiflis Wine Cellar LLC involve the production and sale of wines and spirits.

Gaming Business

  • Aliud Unitas Georgia LLC
  • Georgia Capital Group LLC
  • Royal Gambling LLC

Seventy percent of Aliud Unitas Georgia is under the ownership of Pefterson Limited, a company registered in Cyprus, while the remaining 30 percent is owned by Ilya Bulichev, a Russian citizen. The ultimate owner of Pefterson Limited is unknown. The primary activity of the company revolves around gambling, and it possesses the Eclipse entertainment center in Batumi.

Georgia Capital Group is owned by Russian citizens Alexander Dorogov, Ekaterina Ogorodnikova, and Oleg Andreev. Sixty percent of the company is held by Storm Brain International, registered in the Netherlands, with the ultimate owner being unknown.

Royal Gambling is owned by Russian citizen Omar Aliyev.

Service Sector

  • JSC VTB Bank Georgia,
  • KaDeWe Georgia LLC
  • JL “Ineo”

“VTB Bank Georgia” is a subsidiary of the Russian VTB Bank, 61 percent of shares of which are owned by the Government of the Russian Federation. A few days after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the USA and the European Union imposed sanctions against VTB Bank, in connection with which the National Bank of Georgia restricted the activities of VTB Georgia. Until 2022, VTB Georgia was the country’s fourth largest bank.

100 percent of KaDeWe Georgia is owned by the Russian company KaDeWe. The sphere of activity is import and distribution of food products (about 700 items).

99 percent of Ineo LLC is owned by Russian citizens Alexei Volchkov and Alexei Sonka. The main activities of the company are construction and sale of residential complexes.

Other Sectors

  • Poti Grain Terminal LLC
  • Lukoil-Georgia LLC
  • Yandex Taxi
  • Jetty Cloud LLC

Fifty percent of Poti Grain Terminal LLC is owned by Tower Capital Trading, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, and is controlled by Russian citizens Alexei Chemerichko and Marat Shaydaev. An additional 42 percent belongs to Agrikom LLC, which is also owned by Russian citizen Konstantin Osipovya. The primary activities of Poti Grain Terminal LLC include storage, loading and unloading, and wholesale trade in grain.

Lukoil-Georgia LLC, established in 2002, is owned by CJSC Litasco, registered in Switzerland. The ultimate beneficiary of Litasco is the Russian company Lukoil. The principal activity of Lukoil-Georgia LLC involves wholesale and retail trade of oil and petrochemicals throughout Georgia.

The Russian online cab calling company “Yandex Taxi” entered the Georgian market in 2016 and swiftly became one of the industry leaders. “Yandex Taxi” is owned by “Yandex.Go,” a subsidiary of the Russian internet company Yandex.

Lastly, Jetty Cloud LLC, registered in March 2022, is owned by Russian citizen David Slonimsky. In 2022, the company generated revenue of 150 million GEL (about $56 million) and operates in the field of information technologies.

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