A billionaire and a ghost trading floor - the tale of Nepal's paralysis

Mon Oct 7, 2013 5:43pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Frank Jack Daniel

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's only billionaire made his name selling instant noodles. Now he's got an eye on running the young Himalayan republic.

Binod Chaudhary, recently valued by Forbes at a billion dollars, says he would give up business for a shot at governing one of the world's poorest countries. But not yet. Nepal's politics are just too messy, even for a man who was able to build a business empire during a civil war.

Wedged between two of the world's largest markets, India and China, and home to its most spectacular mountains, Nepal should be a manufacturing, tourism and trading success.

Chaudhary is testament to the possibilities. Having started out selling noodles to India, then all over Asia, his family-owned conglomerate includes a bank, a telecommunications business and dozens of resorts, including two in the Maldives in partnership with India's Taj Group.

But Nepal is one of Asia's most unstable countries, despite seven years of peace since the end of a Maoist war that helped topple a centuries-old monarchy. It has had five governments since 2008 elections and politicians have not been able to agree on a constitution that will lay out the contours of the state.

Elections due on November 19 for a new constitutional assembly are expected to go ahead despite threatened disruption by a significant faction of hardline Maoist parties.

That's too soon for Chaudhary, who wants the political parties to finish writing a new constitution before he takes the plunge into full-time politics.

"There is no point in getting caught in between in a situation that you can't resolve," he said, in a reception room offering sweeping views of Kathmandu's packed streets and nearby mountains from the top floor of his headquarters.   Continued...

REFILED - ADDING COUNTRY BYLINE Nepal's only billionaire Binod Chaudhary, whom Forbes valued at a billion dollars in March, gestures as he speaks with Reuters during an interview at his office at Chaudhary Group in Kathmandu October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar