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What happened to SkyPower's $1.3 bln FDI in Uzbekistan?


Presidents of all countries like to leverage their state visits to sign investment deals — and Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is no exception. Since coming to power in 2016, Mirziyoyev has made attracting international investment one of his top priorities: his government has opened new sectors of the economy to competitive tenders; tapped global debt markets with a $1 billion Eurobond; and signed a spate of investment contracts with companies from advanced industrial economies including France, Canada, and the United States. During a visit to Paris in 2018, Mirziyoyev inked 5 billion Euros in project agreements, and during his much-ballyhooed Washington visit in May 2018, his government signed over $4 billion worth of deals with major North American businesses.

But one agreement stands out, both for its sheer size and for what has since befallen a deal that Mirziyoyev’s government once heralded. During the President’s Washington visit, his team signed Uzbekistan’s largest-ever foreign direct investment (FDI) agreement with SkyPower Global, a Canada-based but majority American-owned energy company, which committed $1.3 billion to build solar energy generation capacity throughout Uzbekistan. This was not just the country’s biggest FDI deal but also the first Power Purchase Agreement on such a scale for the country.

Yet nearly two years since entering Uzbekistan, SkyPower Global is still waiting for a payment guarantee from Tashkent. In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Navbahor Imamova in Washington, the company’s CEO Kerry Adler says that without this insurance, SkyPower simply cannot work in Uzbekistan. What is needed, he says, is for the government to cover the costs if payments for generated energy are not received from SkyPower’s Uzbek state partner, UzbekEnergo.

SkyPower’s experience points to a pivotal problem facing major investors in Uzbekistan: despite considerable excitement about its transition from the late President Islam Karimov to a more open investment regime, the country still has a long way to go in terms of its credit ratings and business conditions.

For its part, SkyPower has yet to hear from the Uzbek government a formal explanation of what the problem is, even though VOA's reliable sources in Tashkent have revealed at least two major issues that the system may have with this deal now. First, the Uzbek side has had cold feet about the cost of generated power: SkyPower-produced energy will be priced a 6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and more affordable offers have since come along. Second, Uzbek laws do not allow the Ministry of Finance to give a payment guarantee to a foreign company. President Mirziyoyev issued a decree in 2018, ordering the Ministry to provide such document and instructing relevant parts of the government to work with SkyPower but the legal system has not been rejiggered to permit it.

The U.S. government has urged Tashkent to honor its contracts, and hopes the issue will be resolved. The case is a crucial test for Mirziyoyev’s government, not least because of the size of the investment and the scale of the proposed project. What steps will Uzbekistan take next? VOA is expecting responses on this issue from the Ministry of Finance as well as the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade. As other present and potential investors anxiously watch the situation, the head of SkyPower is looking to President Mirziyoyev personally to help break the logjam.​

Full transcript of VOA interview with Kerry Adler, SkyPower Global CEO Washington, February 19, 2020

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Hello! I'm Navbahor Imamova and you're watching the Voice of America. In 2018 Canada based, energy company, SkyPower, signed the biggest deal in the history of Uzbekistan, in terms of foreign direct investment, which involves $1.3 billion, and the goal is to build 1000 megawatt solar energy generation infrastructure, in a country that has never seen anything like this before. To discuss the fate of this project, this huge deal, we have Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO, with us today, all the way from Canada. Thank you so much for joining us.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Thank you.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: As the CEO of this company, you have been dealing with the Uzbek government face-to-face for at least the last two years, right?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Yes. It's been a very exciting journey since late 2017, that I think is truly a roadmap for other foreign direct investors.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You've been bringing in millions of dollars so far. And the solar energy generation infrastructure that you are building across Uzbekistan involves, I believe, all the regions?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We had a choice of regions that we worked out with the government that are the most needy in terms of bringing power to groups and communities that currently don't have power. So our focus first, the first plan, that area that we focused is the Samarkand region, and we'll follow with Navoiy region. But I just wanted to maybe perhaps give you a little bit of a concept.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely, yes, please.

[SkyPower] is majority owned by American shareholders. So, it's Canadian and American shareholders. The largest shareholder is a fund manager, who has one limited partner, which is one of the largest pension funds in the world, it's actually the largest in North America.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Although I'm from Canada, the company is majority owned by American shareholders. So it's Canadian and American shareholders. The largest shareholder is a fund manager, who has one limited partner, which is one of the largest pension funds in the world, it's actually the largest in North America. And back in the United Nations, in 2017, I was invited by President Mirziyoyev, to attend a gala dinner, which at that dinner, which was well attended from people from the Commerce Department, CEOs for multinational companies, I was asked by the president to stand up, and was advised that after reviewing suppliers around the world, based on our experience, credibility and track record, that SkyPower was selected by the government of Uzbekistan, to come to build the solar power industry in Uzbekistan. To be perfectly honest, I went to the dinner as a courtesy.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You had no...

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: No intentions, no understanding what the needs were of Uzbekistan.

SkyPower CEO Kerry Adler talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 19, 2020
SkyPower CEO Kerry Adler talks to VOA's Navbahor Imamova, Washington, February 19, 2020

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So the Uzbeks had already studied. They had done their due diligence, and they already wanted you, basically?

I was told to stand up and President Mirziyoyev addressed me personally, and said, "I expect you in two weeks to be in Tashkent with the proposal and a contract. Do you understand?" I was, "Sure."


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We were invited to the dinner.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: ... and they put you basically on the spot and they said, "Hey, we want you to come in and invest."

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Not only invest, but to be brutally honest because that's who I am, after I sat, I was told to stand up and President Mirziyoyev addressed me personally, and said, "I expect you in two weeks to be in Tashkent with the proposal and a contract. Do you understand?" I was, "Sure."

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: This is very interesting. Did they give you any numbers?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Not at that moment. As soon as the formal part of the evening was over, and companies like GE, amongst others, law firms and various other company, I think there was 10 or 11 of them that were selected that evening, to come to work very closely to help President Mirziyoyev achieve this incredible vision. Now for me, I've spent a great deal of time in the UN, each year we host 10 to 12 heads of state at some various events, I've worked very closely with Global Compact. In fact, I worked very closely with Ban Ki-moon, when he was the Secretary General. And today I work very closely with Amina Mohammed, who's now the deputy secretary general, and we work to try to advance the necessity to have renewable energy, which is a precursor to assisting the world solve for climate change. So for me, sitting in an event where a head of state takes a very unorthodox approach, I will tell you something-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Very Mirziyoyev like actually.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: ... So unique that everyone in the room was speechless, because here is a man with great respect amongst all, and with humility, ready to stand up and say that, "Look, North Americans, Americans are more talented than we are. We need to learn from them, and we need them to come to our country to help capacity build, and in exchange for them doing that, we are inviting these business titans to come and help kickstart some of our core industries." I was wholly impressed, but I was a little suspect.

Because, you're not just talking an evolutionary change. You're talking a revolutionary change to a society that for all intents and purposes, the rest of the world considered closed for decades.


Why was it that they had chosen SkyPower? What research did they do? Did they talk to any of our people? How were we selected? Now we understand that the U.S. government, who is a big supporter of SkyPower, as is the Canadian government, who are big supporters of SkyPower and what we're doing, developing countries around the world, may have put forth our name, but I wanted to hear for myself is this man, who's got this incredible vision, a real man? Is this really what he is planning in his country? Because, you're not just talking an evolutionary change. You're talking a revolutionary change to a society that for all intents and purposes, the rest of the world considered closed for decades.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely. And you got to have a conversation?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: I had a chance to have a conversation, obviously, I need to work on my Uzbek, but it was translated for me, and I looked President Mirziyoyev in the eyes, and I said, "I'm prepared to come to your country, but I want to know that if we come to your country, and I'm able to get approval from our board to make a sizable investment, are you going to follow through with all these reforms and commitments that you've laid out to hundreds of people in the room at this dinner?" And this is on the sidelines of the UN. He shook my hand, he says, "Be in Tashkent in two weeks." Two weeks to the day, plus or minus 24 hours in time zones, I showed up with a team of 15 people, we had economic studies done by Deloitte, we had contractual agreements, we had entire engineering plans, we had mapped out their entire network, we understood what they needed. We spent a fortune of time and money and showed up-

I looked President Mirziyoyev in the eyes, and I said, "I'm prepared to come to your country, but I want to know that if we come to your country, and I'm able to get approval from our board to make a sizable investment, are you going to follow through with all these reforms and commitments that you've laid out to hundreds of people in the room at this dinner?" And this is on the sidelines of the UN. He shook my hand, he says, "Be in Tashkent in two weeks."


Navbahor Imamova, VOA: To get all this done in two weeks?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: ... Within two weeks, no other company-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And this is the fall of 2017?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Fall of 2017. Within 48 hours, we signed a framework agreement, not an MOU, or I love you, lovely, this is an intention of SkyPower to put 1.3 billion, worth of assets in the ground, generating power to Uzbekistan.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: The biggest foreign direct investment ever in the history of the country.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: The biggest. And I will tell you, we did so at great risk. But I did it for one reason, one reason only. I've had the pleasure of meeting and knowing, and I'm friends with many heads of state around the world. There are few, if any, I've met that have the conviction and the ability to, in a very candid way, to basically simply state that we need help, and here's a country that not only wants help, they're not standing there with their hands out like this. They're saying there's an opportunity here. Let us show you how you can come to our country under these sets of reforms. I heeded the call. It's the first time I've ever done that in my entire career. I've been in renewables, now going on 18 years. But he is such a special man, so unique. He reminds me of the Kennedys in terms of the way he carries himself, the way he conducts himself, the allure that he has amongst the people there. That's what I see.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah. With that though, then comes great expectations, constantly raising those great expectations. Right now, fast forward, almost three years later, you have a government that is struggling to deliver in many ways. He's under pressure. Mirziyoyev is under pressure, not just by investors like you, by the international community, but by his own people. And there was more public pressure now inside Uzbekistan, which we see as progress obviously, but people want jobs, people want energy. What have you been able to do so far in the country?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We've spent over $10 million, we've secured the land for the first set of projects, we've done all of our pre-construction works, we've run global tenders, we've done everything required from us. When we signed the contract, it took many months and in fact, in December 2017, after being told to repeatedly come down to finalize the documents, only to arrive there and have a minister or deputy Prime minister say, well, we're not ready to sign. Not ready to sign. This was negotiated. Now one thing I will tell you, I can't speak for other countries in that part of the world, but when SkyPower conducts itself, one of the first rules we operate under is transparency. We're married to anti corruption. We will never participate in any corrupt activities. We will not pay for a contract, nor would we even give a gift, nor will we make a promise.

And I think that this is a country, from what I understand, from people who have lived there and done business there, that historically has come from a different type of a culture. We have to adhere to ethics, we have to adhere to the laws of Canada, the laws of the United States, the laws in UK, but even at a higher level, we cannot not participate in activities where you win a contract based on something else that's not making sense...

President Mirziyoyev personally invited SkyPower Global to Uzbekistan. The company team was in Tashkent within two weeks.
President Mirziyoyev personally invited SkyPower Global to Uzbekistan. The company team was in Tashkent within two weeks.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So you obviously laid that out to them. Explained that... And what were the kinds of reactions you got from them, as they were slow, not necessarily delivering your expectations?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: I would say... Here's sort of the way I look at Uzbekistan. First of all, it's a beautiful country, rich in resources, I have not met a person in that country that I would say is not a good person. The fabric is good. Now, there are some people who still hang on to the old ways of doing business. I don't interact with them, we've never been approached and someone says, "Okay, if you want your contract, you have to give us money." Because if that happened we would be... write to Transparency International, we're reporters not participators, and as reporters, we would make it known.

When we travel, we're now operating in 36 countries where we're developing around the world. And the beginning of every meeting starts with, "These are our rules, this is how we conduct ourselves. Here's our code of ethics."


Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So far for the last two years, you have never been approached by anyone who seemed to at least represent any vested interest.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Never. But you know, the key to that is you set very clearly upfront. When we travel, we're now operating in 36 countries where we're developing around the world. And the beginning of every meeting starts with, "These are our rules, this is how we conduct ourselves. Here's our code of ethics." And when you get that conversation out of the way... See corruption is what's hurt development in developing countries. Some countries, believe that making facilitation payments is still a way of doing business. Under some of the laws, like in the United States, a facilitation payment is legal, if it's fair and reasonable. But the problem is, how do you measure fair and reasonable in what context? What's your gauge? We believe in something very simple, and that is, they want power, we're going to bring power.

Not only are we going to bring them solar power, but the deal that we have, with Uzbekistan, which got a stamp and a presidential decree, and a stamp meaning that the pricing we submitted went through a review and an analysis over a period of months, and got stamped that the price was competitive to the market at the date it was signed.

The President issued a decree, and the decree said this contract is valid. This is with UzbekEnergo who's now become the national power company, and the President directed his Minister of Finance to forthwith, immediately issue a payment guarantee, because no one's going to invest in Uzbekistan, that doesn't even have an investment grade credit rating today.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely.

The President issued a decree, and the decree said this contract is valid. This is with UzbekEnergo who's now become the national power company, and the President directed his Minister of Finance to forthwith, immediately issue a payment guarantee, because no one's going to invest in Uzbekistan, that doesn't even have an investment grade credit rating today.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: It's B1, depending on which rating agency, and I'll tell you something, the jury is out. I speak to various individuals at various rating agencies from time to time, and right now, they want to know is Uzbekistan honoring their contractual commitments?

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Exactly. That's the main question.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Look, it's one thing to have... Unequivocally, it's one thing to have an incredible leader, who has an incredible vision. But you've got to make sure the people underneath have the ability to execute. Let me give you a for instance.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So we're talking about what kind of systemic changes have taken place.. You have, let's say, in your words, an incredible leader who has this personal charisma, who can attract big investors like you, but then you have to deal with the system - with various ministries and agencies, starting with UzbekEnergo. So tell us what kind of progress you see so far. Let's focus on the progress first, if any...

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: The progress came about at the end of the negotiations with the help of the U.S. Ambassador and the Canadian High Commissioner.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Powerful interlocutors.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Well, they needed to be there, for two reasons. One, we wanted to keep the process clean, and make sure that we had government people in the room because this is a bilateral agreement, it's a PPP. In fact, it's the first public private partnership in the history of this country, and the first independent power company, and they call it PPA number, one that was ever signed. So we needed to have the governments of the U.S. ambassador, Ambassador Spratlen, who was there at the time, and since there's a new ambassador who's a fantastic gentleman, I just met with recently.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Daniel Rosenblum?

SkyPower is going out on a limb here. We're putting our name on the line, and we're signing up to your commitment, President Mirziyoyev, but we expect that your vision goes beyond the vision. That these reforms and the message doesn't stop at your office.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Daniel's incredible, he gets it. We had them there because we wanted to make sure that they understand that, SkyPower is going out on a limb here. We're putting our name on the line, and we're signing up to your commitment, President Mirziyoyev, but we expect that your vision goes beyond the vision. That these reforms and the message doesn't stop at your office.

But what we have found is yes, he has an amazing vision, yes, he is effecting reform. The problem is the decision making ability below the President, or the desire to decisions below the President is overcome with fear of making the wrong decision. So fear is one of the greatest inhibitors. We call them... in Canada passing the puck, passing the ball, no one wants to be the one to make the decision, whether it's a smallest thing, like a piece of land, or whether it's issuing a sovereign guarantee.

SkyPower deal is Uzbekistan's first Power Purchase Agreement
SkyPower deal is Uzbekistan's first Power Purchase Agreement

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: What ministries have you been dealing with? Obviously with the Ministry of Economy?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We've dealt with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Of Investments and Foreign Trade.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: ... Investments, we've dealt with the Ministry of-

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Agriculture?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: ... Not Agriculture.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Energy?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Every Ministry except for Agriculture, we've dealt, the Finance covers a very broad range.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Obviously.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: The Minister of Finance, was tasked by President Mirziyoyev, as the individual responsible for SkyPower. That night when I sat down and then the President said, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance is Kuchkarov?

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yes, Jamshid Kuchkarov?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Yes. He is the guy responsible. Imagine I'm invited to fly down, not once, not to twice, four times. Finally I get a letter invitation. Please, Mr. Adler come down. I didn't respond because we were so frustrated. I get a call at 6:00 AM I'm in Paris, Kuchkarov on the phone, "Kerry, please, you must come down, we're ready to sign, I guarantee you we're ready to move forward." We fly down a team, and we go down with a team. We've got engineers, 15 people. We show up, "Oh, we're not ready to sign." Those are...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Any specific reasons? Were they're giving you or just bureaucratic?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: There's bureaucracy, but let's get through that. Now, we finally, in April 2018 all the agreements are finalized with the Canadian Government, and the U.S. Government's assistance sitting with Uzbekistan, because we don't just go to Uzbekistan with a great business opportunity. We go there because we want to have an impact on society. We're not just giving solar power. Deloitte did an economic study that what we call green giant in Uzbekistan will amount to several billion dollar impact on the GDP, about 30,000 job years, we're also for capacity building, doing a program where they'll be able to take their managers, that was covered by the revenues of the project to Harvard, MIT Sloan to educate.

This is what President Mirziyoyev really asked. He says, "I want to give an education. I want to help." We're setting up in Uzbekistan actual assembly. Instead of just buying the solar panels from China and all the jobs going there, the solar cells will come from China, but the assembly's going to be done in country. We're not asking them to pay us anything, except the price of power that we negotiated.

We're setting up in Uzbekistan actual assembly. Instead of just buying the solar panels from China and all the jobs going there, the solar cells will come from China, but the assembly's going to be done in country. We're not asking them to pay us anything, except the price of power that we negotiated.


Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Do you think that some of the key people, starting with Minister Kuchkarov, and others people around him, do they understand what... the content of this deal, do you think they the depth? When you go explain your own findings, when you explain the potential impact on the overall economy and the impact on the reform process, do you think that they get you?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Deloitte issued a detailed analysis, which was subsequently translated. I have heard Deputy Prime Minister, Kuchkarov speak on Bloomberg and in perfect English he gets it.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So they get it.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: They got it. But here's the challenge.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You're talking about a sector that hasn't really existed in Uzbekistan. They've been talking about renewable energy, solar power, potential of Uzbekistan for a long time. We've been to many conferences where experts would come out, from the government, various institutions, and they talk about the potential of Uzbekistan when it came to the sector. But they have never really started to build the structure or to even think of a real structure before you went in. So zero experience.

We have written no less than dozen letters, we've had Secretary of State that recently visited, explained to President Mirziyoyev how important it is for investors to have confidence, and know that when you make a commitment... here's a disconnect.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: And we're the pioneer. But here's the most important thing that President Mirziyoyev should not be lost on him. When someone takes a chance on you, and trusts you, it's your job as a leader to follow through. I can't begin to tell you the dozens of groups that I connect with. Whether it's the World Economic Forum in Davos, or earlier today in meetings I had here in Washington with the IFC. Imagine the months, 18 months later, we are still waiting for our payment guarantee. We have written no less than dozen letters, we've had Secretary of State that recently visited, explained to President Mirziyoyev how important it is for investors to have confidence, and know that when you make a commitment... here's a disconnect. You go in, you make a commitment, you sign a contract. The president of this country who's an honorable good man, issues a decree, Ministry of Finance, doesn't issue the payment guarantee. Chasing Ministry of Finance, chasing Ministry of Finance...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Without giving you a reason?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Not even a response. Not even a response. After trying politely, nicely... in the contract, we had the foresight... When you make an investment, you put in adequate protections. If they don't honor the contract, there was already a liquidated damages clause, that we could have executed on November of last year, to the tune of $1.8 billion. There's no debating it. In fact, they're signatories to the Energy Charter. We could walk into the Hague, file our case and they would... there's no dispute. There's a contract, but it's simple. We don't want to take from Uzbekistan money for something that we didn't build. We don't want to go down that road, but we're now at a point where, I've written a 1200 page letter to President Mirziyoyev, detailing out all of copies of correspondence, we've been trying through various ministries, we've been sent around like this.

In fact, they're signatories to the Energy Charter. We could walk into the Hague, file our case and they would... there's no dispute. There's a contract, but it's simple. We don't want to take from Uzbekistan money for something that we didn't build. We don't want to go down that road, but we're now at a point where, I've written a 1200 page letter to President Mirziyoyev, detailing out all of copies of correspondence, we've been trying through various ministries, we've been sent around like this.


And the whole idea is, that what they've tried to do is, these ministries is, not own the project. Why? Why not own the project?

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Basically nobody in the system takes any responsibility, starting with the Ministry of Finance you're saying?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Yes. And the challenge is, that if you don't take responsibility for what a president, the head of a state delegates to you, then what you're doing is, you're undoing the vision of that government. So basically the president just becomes a talking head, and his promises are empty. Here, I'll share with you a coincidence. At my house, I had one of my household staff was ill, we had a [inaudible 00:21:30]. Out of coincidence, she's from Uzbekistan. And I didn't even realize until she mentioned to me, she says, "I saw a bag up in your office area that said Uzbekistan Power." She says, "I'm from Uzbekistan."

And I said... this is four or five days ago. I said to her, "It's a beautiful country." She says, "I've been living in Canada for 11 years, my family still lives there, in the Tashkent area." She says, "It's such a beautiful, like Samarqand we talked about, I said, "Tell me, what do you think about all the changes?" She says, "When President Mirziyoyev was elected, the entire population was excited that we're finally going to have this change." And you know what she says to me, she says, "But after a year, we haven't seen any." She says, "When I go to get a passport today, I have to pay money." There are things you can't change dramatically, quickly. And I will tell you that the biggest challenged President Mirziyoyev has, is not his vision.

It sounds, it's not him. He's an amazing, honest, good natured man. It's the people beneath him that are not executing, that is causing consternation, and it's got a lot of investors on the fence. Is this real, or is this not real? To the point where people are wondering, why would they not honor a contract? Why don't they honor a president's decree? You know what the response is? No response. We reach out, they have an Ombudsman Office. Brilliant. The president has...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Business Ombudsman?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: ... We reach out to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman asks us for clarity, then he asks us for a meeting, we go, we meet the Ombudsman, give him all the information, never hear back. The challenges for investors, a lot of them are in a wait-and-see. If they're not going to honor the first biggest investment that made international headlines from a company, that was selling energy at a price.

The new ambassador stood up in front of a group of people in public, and made it very clear to the government of Uzbekistan, and I quote. "Uzbekistan has to honor its contractual commitments, no matter if subsequently someone comes with a lower price, because without foreign direct investment, no country can grow." People believe that this is like the days of a souk, like negotiating. There's nothing to negotiate. You signed a contract, people have expectations. Honor a contract. You honor the first, you gain credibility, you gain a reputation. People will come. Right now the investment community is on the fence saying is Uzbekistan real? Does President Mirziyoyev have control of his Ministries of Investment, and his Ministry of Finance. Or are they just running a mock?

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You haven't dealt with the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade? That's not the office that you're dealing with?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We are a part of the hockey puck that's been passed back and forth.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So they've been...

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Ministry of Investment we've communicated with. They say, "Okay, go to Ministry of Finance." Ministry of Finance says, "Oh no, it goes to this department..." It's back and forth. So finally we put our foot down and we said, "Look."

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: ... And when did that happen?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We pulled them into a breach of contract in November of this year. They were exactly...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: In 2019.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: 2019, they were 12 months late on delivery of a Payment Guarantee. Imagine. The land is there. We have the tender. We could basically... In order to complete financing of a project, to go to our shareholders and our bank and say, "We're ready to go ahead and build there." They want a payment guarantee. It's a piece of paper, which all it says is, "If the government were to change, or UzbekEnergo, or National Power doesn't pay its bill, that they will make sure that we are paid."

Why is that so important? It's important because governments change over time. Any country, developing country go to, that doesn't have an Investment Grade Credit, has to give a second level of assurance. They don't have...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And Uzbekistan should know that.

Everyone's nervous. I will tell you that if I was an investor today, I would be sitting back in my chair, wait and see. I would want to see SkypePower's contract, I'd want to see GEs contract. John Deere's contract... I would want to see these contracts executed upon, because otherwise it's just fantasy.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: But here's the thing, it's a piece of paper. By the end of the day, it's not really that hard to give, because if you're adding electricity to meet the demand, there are people in Uzbekistan, an hour, 40 minutes out of Tashkent, that still don't have basic electricity, as you probably know. As long as you're selling the power and you're collecting the money, you'll be able to pay your power producers. But instead, what are they've done? They've gone out, they're running more tenders, and more tenders, and more tenders, and they're making all these contractual commitments. I have to tell you something. This is a very small industry. Mubadala they are friends of mine. In fact, I sit on a board with the CEO of Mubadala Petroleum. We talk about this ACWA, the CEO, I know very well. Total Eren... I know the CEO of that company very well.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And they're all watching how paralyzed you are now.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Everyone's nervous. I will tell you that if I was an investor today, I would be sitting back in my chair, wait and see. I would want to see SkypePower's contract, I'd want to see GEs contract. John Deere's contract... I would want to see these contracts executed upon, because otherwise it's just fantasy.

SkyPower Global hopes President Mirziyoyev "will set things straight"
SkyPower Global hopes President Mirziyoyev "will set things straight"

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: How many big deals like yours as far as you know, are in this kind of state now?

If you have a foreign direct investor, who's the head of the pact, who stands up and says $1.3 billion commitment to your country, which I have to be honest with you, when the President asked me to stand up, and I sat down, the first thing I did was grab myself and go on to Google, and try to figure out where Uzbekistan was.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: I always like to use facts when I speak, but I have heard from very reliable sources that there are over a hundred presidential decrees, that the president has signed and put a stamp on and published, that are still waiting to be acted upon. And they could come up with any excuses. But let me tell you something. If you have a foreign direct investor, who's the head of the pact, who stands up and says $1.3 billion commitment to your country, which I have to be honest with you, when the President asked me to stand up, and I sat down, the first thing I did was grab myself and go on to Google, and try to figure out where Uzbekistan was. And I'm not embarrassed, and to be honest with you, because that's the truth. I've heard of the country, but geographically I didn't know they're landlocked, double landlocked. I knew it was near Kazakhstan, but...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: It's double land-locked.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: But the Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have an interesting relationship. They're very competitive. I've been to Kazakhstan. They've got their house in order. And they've got processes and it works. And I'll tell you something Kazakh in terms of their energy and how they're addressing that, they have it down to earth science. I don't believe that the IFC program, and I shared this today with the COO of the IFC, I don't think the IFC program is appropriate for Uzbekistan. The IFC should be focusing on the African countries that have no power. Uzbekistan doesn't need the IFC, to help them to bring more solar and renewable power. What Uzbekistan needs, is to sit down, and do business the way Western people and international people do business, which is a contract-to-contract, once it's signed.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: But obviously they don't know how to do this, based on your experience. What if the bureaucrats and the Uzbek system would tell you, "We don't know the know-how. We don't know how to lead this process. We've never dealt with a humongous investment deal like this. We're struggling. Inside the system, we don't know what to do. We don't know how to overcome that fear that you mentioned."

What Uzbekistan needs, is to sit down, and do business the way Western people and international people do business, which is a contract-to-contract, once it's signed.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Well, here's what I've learned, spending as much time as I have in Uzbekistan, and I know you're from Uzbekistan. And I have people who work for me from Uzbekistan. They are some of the most brilliant people in the world. Unfortunately when you have a lot, you don't have to work so hard. A lot of people have free medical care, they have jobs, the can easily... We take a lot of things for granted in the United States and Canada. And that's just because that's what we know. But when you run into the average person in the street in Uzbekistan, they're working hard. They're trying to find one way to support their family. Inflation's at 15%. 15% inflation. The currency has lost half its value.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yeah, this is a society where corruption has been a way of life.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: But here's the thing, you've got a president who says enough. The first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investment [Halmuradov], all of a sudden, overnight gone. He was one of the guys trying to block our project. All of a sudden he's gone. No one's heard from him ever again.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: But that did not necessarily fix the problem.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: We don't know why he left. Maybe he was someone, didn't fix the problem...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: In many ways what you're going through is something quite similar to so many other stories we hear in Uzbekistan. Mirziyoyev is... Sits on top. He's the main decision maker, he's the guy who's promoting this vision. He's pushing his reform agenda. But when things go down the system, they get lost and people feel it.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Its because... Fear.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: How do you overcome, I guess you know, anyone who's sitting now and listening to our conversation, are probably agreeing with you and to a great extent, but then the question... the answer boils down to the question of, "How do you change the way people think?" Because probably a couple of guys at their desks are not doing their jobs, and you'll have $1.3 billion deal, sitting in one place. It could be that kind of a picture. And I have talked to many young experts even officials within the Ministry of Finance, and including some Uzbek Americans who've worked in that ministry, and have recently left and that they feel quite pessimistic, about the way things are done in Uzbekistan. What to do?

But if President Mirziyoyev really wants to fix this, he needs to assemble a group of coaches, leaders from businesses. ... You keep doing the same thing over and over. To avoid that dynamic, continuing going again, you have to change something.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Well, the first thing I'll tell you, and I work with, coach many heads of state, in terms the need for power, how to effectively launch tenders, direct deals which are PPP, and under the UNECE guidelines, and new legislation says, PPP for the advancement of sustainable development goals is critical because we've got to fix this climate change issue and tenders take forever and not necessarily the lowest price, is the best is the best outcome. It should look at job creation, but here's the thing, it is fixable. It's not too late. But if President Mirziyoyev really wants to fix this, he needs to assemble a group of coaches, leaders from businesses. I'd even donate some of my time to help. And he should take wise counsel from companies who do business successfully. Because the problem is if you take someone who's been a doing thing for 15 years, we're all creatures of habit. You keep doing the same thing over and over. To avoid that dynamic, continuing going again, you have to change something. It can't just be someone at the top cheering and saying, "This is what we're going to do, because-"

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: So have a special operations team.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: He should put together an advisory board, like in Canada and the UAE, I sit on the Canada, UAE Business Council. In Africa, I sit on the Business Council. I sit on the Canada GCC business council. We sit there and we try together to try to find ways to deal with issues, address them head on. But if you want to turn your country into a destination for foreign direct investment, you can't take guys that have been doing the same old thing over and over again, and hope that they're going to change. It's not their fault. They're good people. Like I said, there's not a bad person I met there. They just don't know better. You have to coach them.​

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Following Secretary Pompeo's visit, there has been no change, in terms of the status?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Zero change.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Zero change.

I want to show Uzbekistan that you honor contracts, you do the right things and people follow. We were the first. We were the first company to arrive there... This is the beginning of something good, so you've got to get the first right. The second, the third, the fourth and guess what? Now you're trusted.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: And we're not going anywhere. We have a contract. We've invested worth of $10 million, we've built an office, we've signed long-term lease, we've hired people, we've expanded our Dubai office, we've done a global tender, we've selected our APC. So we're down at a point where we're going to go with one of two ways. I have to tell you something, having my board give me the latitude to not go and push us into a legal forum is appreciated, because I don't want to go there. What I want is Uzbekistan... I want to set an example. I want to show Uzbekistan that you honor contracts, you do the right things and people follow. We were the first. We were the first company to arrive there. Then they went and they did this IFC tender, 23 companies came, 23. This is the beginning of something good, so you've got to get the first right. The second, the third, the fourth and guess what? Now you're trusted.

Trust is something you cannot buy. And if some guys at the top are saying, trust me, trust me, trust me, but all the guys underneath, they're cutting out his legs, and not following his directive, then no one's going to come. And President Mirziyoyev gets that. He made a statement, which I'll never forget.


Navbahor Imamova, VOA: You haven't directly communicated with him or with his office since, let's say, 2018.

Trust is something you cannot buy. And if some guys at the top are saying, trust me, trust me, trust me, but all the guys underneath, they're cutting out his legs, and not following his directive, then no one's going to come. And President Mirziyoyev gets that. He made a statement, which I'll never forget.


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: I have sent him two letters...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: No response?

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: No response. I've asked to meet with him. It was handed off to his ministry, they set up a meeting, through one of... I think it was Canadian government, they used to coordinate the meeting or the U.S. Government, I cannot recall. We confirmed the meeting, it was canceled two days later.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: And you're in touch with the Uzbek Embassy here in Washington, they are also responsible for Canada.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: The Uzbek Embassy doesn't return our messages, doesn't return our texts. I've asked to meet with the Ambassador. I will tell you something, the only person in that country that's going to set things straight for companies like SkyPower and anyone else that has an issue is President Mirziyoyev. And my understanding...

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Starts with President Mirziyoyev, and ends with President Mirziyoyev.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: But here's an amazing thing. You have billions of dollars. You know how rich in the resources you have in your native homeland.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: But that's the thing though. We've had these forever discussions about the potential of Uzbekistan, but when it comes to actually doing things then, we hear...

Look, we have a contract. Honor the contract."


Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: You've got a guy here, that stands up and says and convinces his board that, "We're going to invest 1.3 billion with our shareholders, investors in this country." And the guy stands up, one day I'm the hero and the next day the people are underneath you... Why? Because I didn't participate in the way they used to do business? I wouldn't, and they never asked me to. And I want to make that very clear.

Our intention from day one has been to build this thing. I've heard rumors, "Oh, SkyPower didn't want to build it. They just wanted to flip it and sell it and profit." I'm like, "Look, we have a contract. Honor the contract." Let me tell you something. When when Kuchkarov stood up in front of Bloomberg, and launched their bonds, there were a lot of people in the fence. Yes, the bonds sold. Now people are sitting there saying, "Okay." I've seen the currency fall in half. In the last 12 months it used to be 12, 18 months. It used to be 4,000 now it's close to 9,000.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: 10.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: 10. Oh wow. You see, I haven't been in a couple of months, no, two months.

I was going to say, inflation is at 15%. Unemployment, real unemployment is at 10%. You have the beginning of an economy that can get away from you. You went out. I've never seen a president go to such extent to broadcast Uzbekistan's open for business. He made a statement. He says, "I will personally guarantee that investors operate in a transparent, honorable, ethical environment, where the rule of law is followed."

Okay, well if the rule of laws is followed, you have a contract, you've issued a presidential decree, honor your word. Because otherwise if your word is not worth anything, if your decree, that piece of paper you stamped and published yourself, is not worth anything. Why should anybody come to Uzbekistan? He has a chance to make it right. SkyPower is his chance to make it right. The world is watching.

I've never seen a president go to such extent to broadcast Uzbekistan's open for business... Okay, well if the rule of laws is followed, you have a contract, you've issued a presidential decree, honor your word. Because otherwise if your word is not worth anything, if your decree, that piece of paper you stamped and published yourself, is not worth anything. Why should anybody come to Uzbekistan?


Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Honor your word. That's the message from this part of the world, from both Canada and the United States today. We'll definitely be checking with Uzbekistan government. We also want to know what their position is, on all of this. You got us very curious. Thank you for such an insightful conversation. We really appreciate it. Kerry Adler, CEO of SkyPower, which is, as you say, committed to build that 1000 megawatt solar power generation capacity in Uzbekistan, and you still want to honor your word, as long as Uzbekistan meets you half way.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: And we want those 30,000 job years, and we want to build the assembly facility. We want Uzbekistan, to be a hub for the rest of Central Asia, where solar panels are assembled proudly on the box, "Made in Uzbekistan." And sent around the world. This is the beginning of an economy. Why not do the right thing and just honor your word? Just do it. The world was watching.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: I hope they're watching you. I hope they're watching you.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: I hope they are too.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Yes. Thank you so much.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: And I will definitely let you know how things are progressing.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Absolutely. We'll be talking with you.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: I believe that President Mirziyoyev, is a good honorable man, despite the challenges we have and I'm holding him to account, to stand by his word. That's why I went in in the first place.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Thank you so much for talking to us.

Kerry Adler, SkyPower CEO: Thank you.

Navbahor Imamova, VOA: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, we will continue to cover these issues obviously, and let us know what you think. This is from Washington, I'm Navbahor Imamova. Thank you so much for watching.

  • 16x9 Image

    Navbahor Imamova

    Navbahor Imamova - "Amerika Ovozi"ning yetakchi multimedia jurnalisti. "Amerika Manzaralari" turkumidagi teledasturlar muallifi. Ko'rsatuvlar taqdim etish bilan birga prodyuser, muxbir va muharrir. O'zbekistonda akkreditatsiyadan o'tgan yagona amerikalik jurnalist. "Amerika Ovozi"da 2002-yildan beri ishlaydi. Jurnalistik faoliyatini 1996-yilda O'zbekiston radiosining "Xalqaro hayot" redaksiyasida boshlagan. Jahon Tillar Universiteti Xalqaro jurnalistika fakultetida dars bergan. Ommaviy axborot vositalari bo'yicha bakalavrlikni Hindistonning Maysur Universitetidan (University of Mysore), magistrlikni esa AQShning Bol Davlat Universitetidan (Ball State University) olgan. Shuningdek, Garvard Universitetidan (Harvard University) davlat boshqaruvi va liderlik bo'yicha magistrlik diplomiga ega. Jurnalistik va ilmiy materiallari qator xalqaro manbalarda chop etilgan. Amerikaning nufuzli universitetlari va tahlil markazlarida so'zlab, ma'ruzalar o'qib keladi. "Amerika Ovozi" oltin medali sohibi. Toshkent viloyati Bo'stonliq tumani Qo'shqo'rg'on qishlog'ida ziyoli oilasida ulg'aygan.

    Navbahor Imamova is a prominent Uzbek journalist at the Voice of America. As anchor, reporter, multimedia editor and producer, she has covered Central Asia and the U.S. for nearly 20 years on TV, radio and online. For the last year, she has also been reporting from inside Uzbekistan as the first-ever U.S.-based accredited correspondent in the country. During 2016-2017, she was a prestigious Edward S. Mason Fellow in public policy and management, while earning her Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Imamova played a pivotal role in the launch of Uzbek television programming at VOA in 2003, and has since presented over 800 editions of the flagship weekly show, “Amerika Manzaralari,” which covers American foreign policy focusing on Washington’s relations with Central Asia, as well as life and politics in the U.S. She speaks frequently on regional issues in Central Asia, as well as Uzbek politics and society, for policy, academic, and popular audiences. Her analytical pieces have been published in leading academic and news outlets including Foreign Policy, The National Interest, and The Atlantic. Imamova also is the founding President of the VOA Women’s Caucus. She began her career at the Uzbek state broadcaster in Tashkent. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mysore, India and a Master of Arts in journalism from Ball State University, Indiana.

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