Keen to position itself as a prime tourist attraction, Ukraine is embracing Western customs and cultures. The CIS country has adopted Western-style residential complexes, stylish restaurants and modern nightclubs, and opened modern, prestige hotels.

Changes to visa rules in 2005 have allowed for greater visitor liberation, though much of this cultural acceptance can be traced back to Ukrainian independence gained at the turn of the millennium (1991). What was perhaps once regarded as an impregnable region or cluster of countries, is now a destination open to all.

At the heart of this is Kiev, capital city and a resort rejuvenated; ready to prosper from new opportunities. Ready too, to stage gasworld’s East Europe Conference 2010, entitled ‘East meets West – A deeper understanding of the needs in Eastern Europe’.

To be held from 20th – 22nd May (2010), the conference will bring together the decision makers from the global industrial gas business to discuss the requirements and catalysts for growth in Eastern Europe.

It seems fitting then, that an event exploring the integration of different cultures and business practices should take place in the evolving city of Kiev.

East meets West
Just as Ukraine is group hugging many Western influences, the Eastern Europe gases business as a whole is keen to embrace the investment and expertise of established Western gas companies.

The region currently operates an under-valued industrial gas sector and is driven on by a need to modernise ageing equipment. Economic transformation has driven the region forward, yet the need exists to implement modern, energy-efficient technologies and bring the Eastern Europe gases business in line with its Western neighbours.

Ukraine and Russia are good cases in point. Since Ukraine became independent again after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country endured a transition to a market economy. Although this meant Ukraine entailed around an eight year recession, its economy has subsequently enjoyed a high increase in GDP growth.

Like Russia however, the country’s gases business is still quite under-developed and in need of input, both technically and financially, from Western influences. In deepest Russia, the replacement of obsolete production units is the main issue, as highlighted during gasworld’s interviews with both Air Liquide Russia and Red Mountain Energy Corporation last year.

We also understand that the involvement of experienced, established Western companies is just as important. Dominique Bertoncini, Managing Director of Air Liquide Russia, told gasworld, “There are business practices, but there is no real business model established. I would say that the market lacks maturity, in all senses of the word - there are not enough answers, not enough application, there is not enough modern logistics.”

“In many ways, it is not a mature market and there is no market leader: the market remains fragmented. It’s not a market where all the rules are already established. The trend that we see now, especially through Western competitors and Air Liquide, is that we are trying to orientate this market towards our business practice in Western Europe. We see it happening for the moment, slowly but surely.”

He added, “The more competitors with a Western business model that enter the Russian market, fast and aggressively, the more that we will see these market trends evolve.”

The business and dynamics of the Russian industrial gases industry are already moving towards a Western Europe business model, but this is a gradual and long-term transition. We could perhaps expect the same of the Ukraine gases industry and other CIS countries, as the region evolves and the potential for industrial gas is explored.

In the spotlight
All this and more will be under the microscope in Kiev this May, as gasworld offers an insight into the existing business demands and opportunities in Eastern Europe.

Already on the agenda for the conference is an enterprising first morning’s session at the Rus Hotel. Among the topics for discussion will be Understanding the Investment Climate in Eastern Europe, The Historical Development of Industrial Gases in East Europe and The Current Day Market and Trends.

Other subjects on the agenda of particular significance to the industrial gas dynamics in the region include Make vs Buy – The Argument for Outsourcing and Management of Bulk Tanker Distribution. Both of these are likely to be of heightened interest, given the currently difficult supply chain, distribution logistics and lack of road networks across the region.

In addition, those parties looking upon Eastern Europe with eager yet guarded eyes, will be able to listen to the views of those already operating in the region, as day one includes a presentation titled Doing Business in Ukraine and Russia. A number of esteemed speakers have already been identified for the two days of the event and preparations are in progress.

With wealthy reserves of iron ore, nickel ore, oil & gas, and many other assets in the region, there’s sure to be plenty of scope for discussion and debate in Kiev this May. Just six weeks remain – Be sure to book your place soon, if you haven’t already!