On December 28, 2016 the Azerbaijani President approved the Rules On Internal and External Indebtedness of State Owned Entities (the “Rules”). They were published on December 29, 2016. The Rules contain two key concepts: (i) the Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers sets the upper limit debt that may be taken out state owned entities and (ii) the Ministry of Finance must consent to debt arrangements of state owned entities.
For the purposes of the Rules a “state owned entity” means any entity (i) in which the state owns, either directly or indirectly, 51% or more shares, (ii) non-commercial entities and public legal entities and (iii) legal persons, including non-commercial legal persons and public legal persons, in which the entities listed in (i)-(ii) above own 51% or more shares. The term indebtedness is defined broadly and includes loans, guarantees, debt undertakings under securities and leasing transactions and other borrowings.
The Rules do not apply to those debt arrangement of state owned entities, which are secured by a government guarantee. This is governed under Presidential Decree No. 368, dated February 13, 2006.
State owned entities must submit to the Ministry of Finance their estimate and plans for taking debt anytime before June 1 of each calendar year. The Ministry of Finance must analyze the information and, with the concurrence of the Azerbaijani Ministry for Economy, submit to the Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers investment projects to be financed with debt. Presumably the Ministry must also submit its proposal on the upper limit of total debt. By September 15 of a calendar year the Cabinet of Ministers must, with the concurrence of the Azerbaijani President, set the upper limit of debt that may be taken out by state owned entities during the next calendar year. It is not clear from the Rules whether the “upper limit” means upper limit for each state owned entity, or upper limit of debt proposed to be taken by all state entities.
Before entering into a debt arrangement a state owned entity must obtain consent of the Ministry of Finance for that debt arrangement. In order to obtain this consent, the relevant entity must submit to the Ministry a set of documents, such as information on the project to be financed with the debt, feasibility study, positive opinion of the Azerbaijani Ministry for Economy for investment projects, initial revenue and expenses report for the year in which the application is made, its audited financial statements. The Ministry of Finance must review the documents and provide its opinion within 30 days. The Ministry may request opinion of other government agencies, in which case the timeline for issue of opinion can be extended for around 10 days.
If the Ministry of Finance believes that the proposed debt arrangement overly burdens the state owned entity and puts it under risk of default, the Ministry may refuse its consent. There are other grounds on which the Ministry may refuse its consent, such as providing false information by the state owned entity wishing to obtain the consent. In all other cases, the Ministry must issue its consent.