* Hopes of doubling foreign investment dashed
* FDI in H1 was $458.6 mln, down from $478.9 mln
* GDP growth to be less than 6 pct forecast
By Margarita Antidze
TBILISI, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Georgia halved its forecast for foreign direct investment (FDI) to about $1 billion in 2013 on Wednesday, acknowledging that hopes for a big influx of money from abroad under a new government would not be borne out.
The new projection suggested that foreign investors are wary of betting on a country that holds a presidential election next month after President Mikheil Saakashvili's long-ruling party lost power in a political turnaround last autumn.
"We are trying to convince businessmen that they are free and ... there is a suitable environment in the country for investment," the former Soviet republic's Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri told Reuters.
The government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire who led an opposition coalition to victory in a parliamentary vote last October, had earlier expected $2 billion in FDI this year, up from $912 million in 2012.
But FDI came in at $458.6 million in the first half of 2013, down from $478.9 million in the same period last year, according to the State Statistics Service. Khaduri said the government now expects it to be $1 billion or a little more for the full year.
FDI last year came mainly from Germany, Britain and Turkey, whereas in the first half of 2013, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and China came top. The energy sector, construction and tourism were the main areas of investment.
Ivanishvili and Saakashvili have been trading accusations of corruption and misrule in the run-up to the Oct. 27 presidential vote in Georgia, which hosts Europe-bound oil and gas pipelines and has strained ties with Russia after a brief 2008 war.
Following the vote, the pro-Western Saakashvili will have to step down after serving two terms.
Khaduri said Georgia's 2013 gross domestic product (GDP) growth would also be lower than an initial forecast of 6 percent, but said growth would start to speed up next year. He gave no specific figure.
GDP grew by 2.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter and by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013, well down from 6.7 percent and 8.2 percent growth in the same periods last year.
International financial institutions and rating agencies have reduced their growth projections for the South Caucasus nation to 3-4 percent this year from 5-6 percent at the end of 2012. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Stephen Nisbet)