Ukraine offers one of the most attractive contrarian investment opportunities available today,” says Lenna Koszarny, CEO of US-domiciled private equity firm Horizon Capital, which manages funds that have invested over $700m in Ukraine to date
With 26 years living, working and investing in Ukraine, expatriate Lenna Koszarny firmly believes the country’s sweeping political reset this past year has led to a historic opportunity to accelerate structural reforms, thus boosting long-term growth and prosperity for Ukraine and for investors willing to look past the headlines. Koszarny, founding partner and CEO of leading private equity firm Horizon Capital, which has over $850 million in assets under management through four Ukraine-focused funds, has witnessed rapid transformation in the country’s economy and business climate in recent years. Indeed, successful measures adopted to cut red tape, introduce business-friendly legislation, combat corruption and remove other obstacles have helped Ukraine jump 88 places on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index since 2012.
“I moved here in 1993 and only since 2014 has Ukraine embarked on an ambitious reform agenda, today delivering macroeconomic stability, local currency appreciation, decreased inflation, a surge in growth and a positive future outlook, “ says Koszarny, who also serves as chair of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Ukraine. The mood is “now or never” for Ukraine, she adds. With an absolute parliamentary majority, President Volodymyr Zelensky has both the mandate and tools to enact changes to dramatically increase growth and Ukraine’s investment attractiveness. These include ensuring rule of law and investor protections, launching large-scale privatizations, unveiling concession projects, establishing a land market, improving the work of anti-corruption institutions, and more. What is most striking is the pace of change that has occurred in the four months since the new parliament and government took office at the end of August.
After Ukraine’s new president appointed 35-year-old Oleksiy Honcharuk as prime minister, he formed a 17-member cabinet with an average age of less than 40 years old. Businesses have reacted positively. AmCham’s recent October 2019 business climate survey found that 82% of respondents plan to expand their businesses next year, 88% expect higher revenues, and 84% percent believe the government plans to open Ukraine to international investors, with 85% of respondents also citing real and effective judicial reform, rule of law and fair justice as “must haves” to unlock investment. The same survey found that agriculture (85%), IT (73%) and energy (45%) were the hottest sectors for investment.
“Business is cautiously optimistic, despite having to deal with turbulence arising during this transformation process,” continues Koszarny. “The country’s leadership has the best opportunity to get it right since Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Business is paying close attention to the government’s vision and priorities shared, metrics used to measure progress and ensuring hard-won macroeconomic stability continues,” she said.
With a focus on Ukrainian export-oriented companies in tech, manufacturing and agriculture, Horizon Capital is Ukraine’s leading private equity firm backed by over 40 institutional investors, offering US investors a gateway to enter this rapidly transforming economy at the ground floor. At the current pace of fund raising, Horizon is set to manage well over a billion dollars in the near future.
“We have a clear value proposition: back visionary entrepreneurs accessing global markets from Ukraine-based, cost-competitive platforms, resulting in high growth, high margins and high returns,” explains Koszarny. “Few countries that border four EU countries and serve as a trade hub to Europe, the Middle East and Asia can also offer a ground-floor opportunity for investors. If Ukraine gets it right, the country may very well emulate the post-reform economic rebound story of Colombia, which grew 13% annually for 10 years from 2004; the Philippines, which grew 9% annually from 2001-2014; Slovakia, which surged 17% annually from 2000-2014; and other countries that have benefited from structural reforms, FDI and substantial exports growth,” says Koszarny.