With an agreement to acquire a 33.33% equity stake in and to provide a US$3mn loan to Unileasing, the EBRD is signing its first transactions in Azerbaijan’s leasing sector. The project will strengthen a leasing company with strong potential in a rapidly growing market.

The EBRD financing will be complemented by €250,000 in technical assistance from the Early Transition Countries Fund to enable the implementation of an enhanced management information system, the improvement of policies and procedures and the adoption of best practices of corporate planning and management.

Unileasing was set up in 2004 as a fully-owned subsidiary of Unibank, one of the leading private commercial banks in Azerbaijan in which the EBRD is also a shareholder. Unileasing has built a sizeable portfolio of assets and today holds a market share of approximately 17%.

The leasing market in Azerbaijan is developing rapidly from a modest base. The EBRD sees substantial scope for development of the sector and has made its support one of the priorities in its latest strategy for Azerbaijan.

Jonathan Woollett, EBRD director, non-banking financial institutions, says that by providing additional capital, institutional strengthening and overall management guidance the EBRD’s investment will enable Unileasing to confirm its position as a leading company in the growing Azeri leasing market.

Aygen Yayikoglu, head of the EBRD resident office in Azerbaijan, adds that the bank’s investment will in particular encourage support for leasing products for private entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises, in line with our overall strategy to help develop the non-oil sectors of Azerbaijan.

Khalid Asgarov, chairman of the executive board of Unileasing, says the EBRD’s acquisition of 33.5% of shares is a solid expression of trust in the company. “We are sure this will help us with our institutional development and will provide us with access to additional financial resources. Like our main shareholder Unibank, we regard the relationship with the EBRD as a milestone for our company’s progress.”