by Matthew Butler, IBTimes:
Billionaire financier George Soros has said that he is prepared to invest $1bn (£673m, €921m) in war-torn Ukraine if Western nations help create the necessary political conditions.
The Hungarian-born hedge fund magnate, speaking to Austrian newspaper Der Standard, also pegged the odds of Greece leaving the eurozone at a third. Last week he put it at 50:50.
Soros said: “The West can help Ukraine by increasing attractiveness for investors. A political risk insurance is necessary. This could take the form of mezzanine financing at EU interest rates — very close to zero.
“I stand ready. There are specific investment ideas, for example in agriculture and infrastructure projects. I would insert a $1bn. This must generate a profit. My foundation would benefit from this, not me personally. But private engagement needs strong political leadership….”
Ukraine’s sovereign debt rating has been cut to one level above junk status by Moody’s as Kiev struggles to agree a debt-restructuring plan in a bid to secure a bailout.
Kiev is at odds with its biggest bondholders over the size of the hit they will take on their bonds when the country’s proposed $15.3bn debt restructuring programme comes into force.
Earlier in the month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to inject $10bn into Ukraine’s battered economy over the next year, as part of a larger four-year bailout.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the rescue package “is very strongly front-loaded during the first year”.
The bailout aims to provide what Lagarde referred to as “immediate economic stabilization”.
Ukraine’s GDP plunged 15.2% year-on-year in the fourth-quarter of 2014, official data showed on 17 February.
The GDP fell by 3.8% from the third quarter, according to data from the Ukrainian statistics service.
The data excluded the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia, and areas where military operations were under way, the statistics office said.
The US government, on 13 January, said it will provide a $1bn loan guarantee to Kiev in the first half of 2015, and work with the US Congress to provide an additional $1bn guarantee, but only if Kiev stuck to its reform agenda, Reuters reported.
Earlier, Soros called on the West to boost its aid, listing steps towards a $50bn financing package he said should be viewed as a safeguard against an increasingly aggressive Russia.
Writing in the New York Review of Books, the hedge fund manager identified the European Investment Bank, World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and an expanded IMF programme as sources of cash.
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