The banana price has dropped significantly over the last year: if the current price fluctuates between 650 -750, in previous years it was not less than 840 drams. This circumstance is conditioned by the emergence of new players in the market, though they encounter a number of obstacles.
Businessman Vahram Mirakyan, who imported the first batch of bananas in December 2016, in a conversation with us said: “We gave bananas to supermarkets at a 30% affordable price, and sales in supermarkets began just before Christmas. But who had seen that before the New Year bananas were sold for 700 drams?”
There were no problems at the import stage; there were no obstacles by state bodies or others, but on August 10, the businessman signaled that there was an attempt to spoil the banana refrigerators, unknown people entered at the night and filled sulfuric acid on the refrigerator compressors. And a few days ago, he informed that it was likely that the criminal case on the case would be terminated.
Who are the players in the banana market?
“Catherine Group” LLC, is the company with a dominant position in the banana market from in the period of 2013 to the first half of 2017. Iravaban.net learned this from the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition.
“In 2013, 9 business entities imported banana, of which the import volume of "Catherine Group" Limited Liability Company was 92% of total imported banana. And in 2016, 40 economic entities were importing banana, of which the import volume of “Catherine Group” LLC was 57% of total imported banana,” SCPEC reports in its reply.
Ms Gayane Sahakyan, Advisor to SCPEC Chairman, says during a conversation with us that they cannot report information about all the years, because they do not study the structure of markets of various products every year. At the same time, she notes that the full information on the market is received from the SRC. The State Revenue Committee, of course, knows which companies and in what quantities imported banana. However, in response to the request of Iravaban.net, they provided limited information. Particularly, they did not provide information on how much does a particular company imported with a a reasoning that it is a commercial secret?
According to the information provided by the State Revenue Committee to Iravaban.net, in 2016 major importers of banana were “Catherine Group”, “Melatropic” LLC, Fruit World LLC., “Garegin Khachatryan Carlos”, “Armen Kirakosyan”, “Artak Kirakosyan Varastat” , "Nvard Khachikyan" and "Arzuman Veranyan" individual entrepreneurs.
“Catherine Group” and other banana importers.
We learn from the State Register of Legal Entities that from 2 May 2016, the 100% of the shares of “Catherine Group” belong to Antonio Ricardo Merino. He is also the CEO of the Company. Prior to this till 13 February, 2012, the owner of that 100% stake was the Sendoline Corporation registered in Panama offshore.
MP Mihran Poghosyan, the former Head of Judicial Acts Compulsory Enforcement Service, has participated in this company as well. There is no data on the portion of his shares in the company in the State Registry, but it has been stated that since 20 May, 2008 his participation has been ceased. But his spouse, Karineh Mkhitaryan, from 1997 to December 8, 2015, was a shareholder of the company, and, according to recent data, she owned about 2% of the company's shares.
“Melatropic” LLC was founded on 13 November, 2012. Ms Melita Ghazaryan is the owner of the 100% of the company’s shares. Interestingly, her residence and company's legal address are the same.
And what is more interesting in LinkedIn social network Melida Ghazaryan points out in her work experience section that she is the head of the trade department of Catherine Group LLC. She has been working in this position since September 2006 to this day. In other words, a person holding a position in the Catherine Group is the owner of another banana importer company.
"Fruit World" LLC was founded on September 1, 2008. Hrant Vardges Nazaryan is currently the owner of 100% of the company's shares. Prior to this Vardges Nazaryan, his father, was the owner of the company.
Whereas in the period of 2008 – February 2012, Vardan Danghyan was the owner of 100% of the company's shares. The latter is the deputy head of Kanaker-Zeytun administrative district of Yerevan City since 2015. We see interesting episodes in his biography posted on the website of Yerevan Municipality (Note that information about V. Danghyan has already been removed from the site, but the archives contain information). In particular, in 2005-2007 he worked as Deputy Director for Construction and Reconstruction Department at “Catherine Group” LLC, and in 2008-2011 – he was the Director of "Fruit World" LLC
Interestingly, though, the owners of "Fruit World" have changed after Danghyan, but the legal address of the company remained the same, and Vardan Danghyan is registered at that address.
In his Facebook page, Danghyan often distributes materials in which Mihran Poghosyan is presented in a positive light.
We can conclude that it is definitely impossible to insist that there is a company with a dominant position in the banana market, and not a monopoly. And since the institute of publicizing the beneficial owners (individuals) has not been included in economic competition sphere, so the state bodies will always present official data on not monopolized market of different products.
By the way, “Catherine Group” LLC before belonging to Anthony Ricardo Merino, was the Sendoline Corporation registered in the Panama Offshore, and even the state does not have information about the beneficial owners.
Data on Market Structure
In the first quarter of 2017, bananas were imported mainly by “Catherine Group”, “Fruit World”, “Prime Goods”, “ArmEx Trading” LLCs and “Hamest Margaryan” and “Arkadi Gasparyan Norik” individual entrepreneurs.
The owner of "Prime Goods" Company founded in December 2016, is Marine Vanik Hambardzumyan; and Vardan Harutyunyan, is the owner of “ArmEx Trading” founded in May of the same year.
More information about the structure of Banana market is infographic.