Liberty Capital, the investment company 96.45% of which is owned by Lado Gurgenidze, is the controlling shareholder of Smartex. Smartex is Georgia’s first startup incubator and owns controlling stakes in the country’s largest digital wallet and other electronic payments businesses, leading daily deals and ecommerce players and a VoIP provider. Smartex has also made angel and Series A investments in several high-profile online financial services and social gifting startups in Europe and the United States.
Lado Gurgenidze (age 44) is a career banker who, after a decade spent at several investment banks in Warsaw, Moscow and London, returned to his native Georgia in 2004 and spearheaded, as Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, the turnaround of Bank of Georgia (LSE: BGEO). During Lado’s three-year tenure, the bank’s total assets and net income grew 854% and 1,775%, respectively, achieving ROAE of 17.7% and ROAA of 3.8% in 2007. As its market share grew from 18% to 34%, Bank of Georgia became the leading universal bank in Georgia and the region, with market capitalisation exceeding US$ 900 million at the time of Lado’s departure (up from less than US$ 30 million at the time of his arrival; share price grew by 1,536%). Bank of Georgia was the first ever issuer from the Caucasus and second FSU bank to list its GDRs on the London Stock Exchange (November 2006, US$160 mln at the pre-money valuation of 3.7 x P/BV ). In February 2007, Bank of Georgia became the first-ever Georgian entity to issue Eurobonds (US$ 200 mln 5 yr).
In 2007-2008, Lado served as Prime Minister of Georgia, leading the Georgian economy through the final stage of free-market reforms, including tax cuts, financial services sector reform as well as privatisation and liberalisation policies. In April 2008, Lado led the effort to issue Georgia’s debut sovereign US$500 mln 5yr Eurobond. In the aftermath of the August 2008 conflict with Russia, Lado was instrumental in stabilising the Georgian economy and its financial sector, as well as securing a US$750 million IMF stand-by arrangement and a US$ 4.5 billion multi-donor aid package. Some of the largest-ever Georgian privatisation transactions, including the sale of Poti Port and Tbilisi Water Company were executed under Lado’s leadership.
Lado put Georgia on the global institutional investor map. He is responsible for bringing in approximately US$1 billion of equity and debt portfolio investments and close to US$500 million of FDI. Lado is the only person to have been awarded both St George’s Victory Order (in 2008) and the Presidential Order of Excellence (in 2010) – the two highest civilian honours in Georgia. Since he stepped down as Prime Minister, Lado has been a frequent public speaker on issues of economic liberty and free-market reforms in developing countries.
Since September 2009, Lado has been spearheading the turnaround of Liberty Bank as its Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. In the past three years, Liberty Bank’s total assets grew 273% to US$629 million, and its market share by total assets grew from 3.5% to 7.3%. Net Loans grew 449% (vs. 82% for the sector), and the bank’s revenue doubled. Liberty Bank is currently the third largest bank in Georgia (up from the seventh largest bank at the beginning of the turnaround), has been profitable since 2010 and serves 1.4 million clients through 542 branches and distribution outlets. In July 2013, Lado will relinquish the title and responsibilities of Chief Executive Officer, allowing him to spend more time on his other business interests, including Smartex. Lado will continue to serve until 2016 as Liberty Bank’s Executive Chairman, devoting approximately 20% of his time to the strategic development of the bank. Lado beneficially owns an approximately 8% equity interest in Liberty Bank.
Since October 2009, Lado has been serving as Chairman of the Board of Bank of Kigali, the largest bank in Rwanda, and has led the bank’s modernisation, with the cumulative asset growth of 131% and net loans growth of 186% and a successful US$62.5 million IPO (at the pre-money valuation of 2x P/BV) in September 2011 (awarded the Best African IPO (2011) award by Africa investor (Ai) magazine). In 2012 Bank of Kigali generated net income of US$19 mln, with its ROAE and ROAA equal to 18.9% and 3.9%, respectively. The bank currently has Market Cap of approximately US$205 mln and trades at 2.1 x P/BV, with the share price up approximately 65% since the IPO.
Lado is also the majority beneficial shareholder (through Liberty Capital) of Liberty Securities, a Georgian broker-dealer.
Prior to taking the helm at Bank of Georgia, Lado served as Head of Europe at Putnam Lovell (now part of Jefferies & Company, Inc.) and as Head of Technology Corporate Finance and Head of M&A, Emerging Europe at ABN Amro, advising clients such as SWIFT, Reuters (now Thomson Reuters), Wirtualna Polska (now part of Orange Polska), Marconi, Andrew Corporation, Merloni (renamed Indesit Company), News Corp, Global One (now part of France Telecom), Golden Telecom (now part of Vimpelcom), UPC (now part of Liberty Global) and Philips.
Lado is married with five children and is a Georgian and British citizen. Lado received his MBA from Goizueta Business School of Emory University in 1993 (and is the recipient of the 2010 Sheth Distinguished International Alumni Award and was named in 2011 as one of 175 Emory History Makers), following undergraduate studies at Middlebury College and Tbilisi State University. Lado served (2011-2013) as a Non-Executive Director at JSC Partnership Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Georgia and GeoProMining (2011-2012), a gold, copper and antimony producer with principal assets in Armenia and Russia. In 2009-2010, Lado co-chaired the Emory Center For Alternative Investments, and currently serves as Co-Chairman of the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University. In 2006, Lado hosted the licensed Georgian version of The Apprentice TV show, and in 2011 he co-hosted a business reality TV show together with the mayor of Tbilisi and heads of two other large banks. In 2010, Lado served as a judge on the Investment Banking Awards panel of The Banker magazine.