By Christina Tashkevich

The Messenger, Georgia
Dec 19 2006

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has
approved a USD 15 million loan to B.I.H. Eastern Ltd, the holding
company of Groupe Castel's beer, wine and mineral water operations
in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. The bank says the loan
would be used to strengthen the two breweries Castel Sakartvelo in
Georgia and Kotayk Brewery in Armenia.

Castel Sakartvelo currently holds a 14 percent share in the beer
market in Georgia. It is one of two breweries in the region that
produces premium brand beers.

"EBRD's loan will help the company strengthen the company's operations
by upgrading and enlarging its logistics as well as increase its
marketing activities," the bank's press release stated on Monday.

CEO of B.I.H. Eastern Ltd Jean Paul Lanfranchi told The Messenger
earlier in December that the company plans to invest more in canning
and bottling beer at Castel Sakartvelo.

"We have been refurbishing the equipment, so we would be able to
increase our capacity of bottling," he said.

Armenian Kotyak Brewery who has been facing increased competition in
the last few years with the help of a loan will invest in improving
its products.

EBRD Director for the Caucasus Mike Davey said the investment is a
good example of the support the bank can offer agribusiness companies
in the region with its capacity for longer-term lending.

In early December, the EBRD together with the European Investment
Bank (EIB) announced plans to finance EU-supported projects in the
Southern Caucasus.

The EIB has been authorised by the EU Council to extend loans that
could exceed EUR 3.7 billion through 2013 (or about EUR 500 million
per year) for co-financing investment projects in the region of
Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

EIB President Philippe Maystadt said in December the region covered by
the agreement is critical because it includes the countries that are
close neighbours of the EU, all of which need modern infrastructure
that will boost economic development.

He added the most efficient way to undertake these large infrastructure
projects is in partnership with the EBRD, which already has a good
knowledge of the region.