Cyprus Aims For Chinese Investors

PIK's host Zheng Chenguang speaks to Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, (R) Cypriot Minister of Energy, Industry, Commerce and Tourism. Cyprus wants Chinese business.

Cyprus wants to cooperate with Chinese companies in the energy sector and become a springboard for Chinese investors to the larger European market, said Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis.

He made the comments in an exclusive interview with China Daily while he was leading a business delegation from the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Beijing earlier this fall.

“All four areas, which I am in charge of, have huge potential for cooperation with China,” he said. Before being appointed as minister in March, Lakkotrypis worked for Microsoft with the mandate of developing the technology giant’s operations in 24 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

“I had never covered the Chinese market in my previous experience, but I am excited about the connection I have with China now,” Lakkotrypis said. Starting with the energy sector, the minister believes that cooperation in natural gas exploration can be mutually beneficial.

“China is energy-hungry, so Chinese companies can be a big consumer of our natural gas. And a lot of Chinese firms have expertise and experience in drilling gases, while we need investment from countries who have been doing this for decades,” Lakkotrypis said.

As early as 2011, the US-Israeli firm Noble Energy announced world-class natural gas finds in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone. Even though the latest assessment by Noble in early October ranged from 3.6 to 6 trillion cubic feet, falling short of the previous estimation two years ago, Lakkotrypis is still confident about their energy industry.

Cyprus, the almost bankrupt Mediterranean island, is hoping its untapped offshore energy resources can pull it back from the current financial brink caused by the European debt crisis.

“There are substantial deposits of natural gas with significant possibilities of production. Chinese investors can come and help us to industrialize the natural gas sector. They can help us on exploration and production,” he said.

Cyprus plans to make a profit using the natural reserves in its exclusive economic zone through a liquefied natural gas plant. According to Lakkotrypis, the plant will make shipping the gas more flexible for investors in the country, and it will also be available for other nations to use reserves to ship

The large reserve and preferential policies have attracted many world-famous firms such as the French energy giant Total, Italy’s ENI, and Kogas from the Republic of Korea, for oil and gas exploration.

“But there still are plenty more for Chinese investors. We want to modernize the industry, and Chinese investors can participate in the upstream of exploration and production, midstream of energy equipment providing, or in the downstream as well,” he added.

Cyprus also expects more Chinese investors to use its geographic advantages to reach a much bigger world market, the minister said.

“The Chinese economy has been growing very fast, and there is the trend of Chinese companies reaching out to more foreign markets. With our strategic geographic location, the tax incentive arability, the existence of the free trade zone, the highly trained labor force, Cyprus can be a reliable business partner for Chinese investors,” Lakkotrypis said.

Trade with Europe, China’s largest trade partner, declined 3.7 percent year-on-year in 2012. Meanwhile, China’s trade with Cyprus increased 5.4 percent, according to the Chinese embassy in Cyprus.

Lakkotrypis hopes Chinese manufacturers pay more attention to his country. “We have a better understanding of the European market, and our well-trained professionals can provide more innovation ideas and high quality products for manufacturers. Since we are one of the European Union members, when you put a foot in Cyprus, you immediately have 27 more markets with a population of half a billion,” Lakkotrypis added.