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Minister: Bashneft privatization technically feasible in late 2016 or mid-2017

Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev has stressed that payment of interim dividends by state-owned companies is not an alternative to privatization

SCHETINKA SETTLEMENT (Kursk Region), August 22. /TASS/. Privatization of Russia’s oil producer Bashneft is technically feasible at the end of 2016 or the middle of 2017, Economic Development Minister Aleksey Ulyukayev said Monday, adding that it is necessary to wait until the political decision is taken.

"I think that technically we’ll be ready to carry it (privatization of Bashneft - TASS) out any time - at the end of this year or next year but when the political decision is made," he said.

"It is not crucially important when it (privatization - TASS) will take place as it may be done even by December 30 in case the issue is about bridging budget deficit," he said.

"Usually there are several gaps appropriate for privatization - the end of the second quarter when the company already has its financials ready, meaning May-June, and the autumn gap. Usually privatization transactions are linked to those periods though there may be exceptions of course," Ulyukayev said.

Ulyukayev said earlier that the Russian government intended to sell 50.08% of Bashneft shares before the end of 2016. However, First Deputy Energy Minister Aleksey Texler said the privatization deal might be postponed to 2017.

According to RBC business daily, the letter sent by the Governor of Bashkiria Rustem Khamitov, who suggested postponement of privatization or contraction of the privatized government stake to 25% so that the company continued meeting social commitments to the region, served in particular as the cause for privatization deadline extension.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said the government’s stake in Russian oil producer Bashneft is tentatively valued at 297-315 bln rubles ($4.5-4.8 bln). None companies have taken interest in the transaction, there are no directly foreign or state-owned firms among bidders. Rosneft’s potential application has spurred a heated discussion.

Rosneft privatization

The minister has also dwelled upon the possible privatization of Rosneft. According to the official, the state-owned oil company is a hard asset for privatization, that is why there is a risk that the deal may not be completed this year.

"Privatization of Rosneft is being prepared by Rosneftegas, they send their proposal to us, we discuss and approve them but we do not have full control over the process. Therefore, I think that the asset is difficult and there is a possibility that we will not manage to do it in 2016. Nevertheless, we will do our best to do it in 2016," Ulyukayev said.

The Minister noted that the privatization of Rosneft is a priority for the government and it will help it solve budget deficit problem.

"Considering at least two reasons - the attractiveness of the asset and the (stake’s) volume - 19.5% which is almost 1% of GDP, this would be a very good solution of the budget deficit issue. Taking into account these two factors, we do consider it as a priority project," Ulyukayev said.

However, he refrained from estimates on revenues to the budget from the privatization of the oil company.

In July it became known that Italian bank Banca Intesa, an advisor on Rosneft’s government stake sale, had sent its first proposals to the Russian government.

Head of the Federal Property Management Agency Dmitry Pristanskov also said that the concrete report of Intesa is expected "not earlier than in autumn."

In January, President Vladimir Putin announced the government’s plans to sell stakes in Rosneft, Bashneft, VTB, Alrosa and Sovcomflot companies in 2016.

Earlier Bloomberg reported that Russia plans to sell a 19.5% stake in Rosneft to investors in China and India for $11 bln.

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) said it was interested to participate in the privatization of Rosneft.

Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said that besides China and India investors from other countries also expressed interest in the deal.