Russia agrees 60-billion-dollar privatisation plan: official

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The Russian government Wednesday agreed a 5-year privatisation drive worth 60 billion dollars that will see it sell stakes in firms such as oil giant Rosneft, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said.

Shuvalov said the government had taken its final decision and the plan only now required the approval of President Dmitry Medvedev, Russian news agencies reported.

"According to initial estimates, the state could receive 1.8 trillion rubles (58.5 billion dollars) from a full realisation of the privatisation plans," he said, adding that 900 firms were slated for privatisation.

Under the plan, the state would sell a further 15 percent stake in Russia's largest oil company Rosneft over the next five years and even give up a controlling holding after 2015.

Other big firms set for state reductions are state banks VTB and Sberbank, the state Russian railways firm RZhD, said Shuvalov, adding a stake sale was also possible in flag carrier Aeroflot.

Russia had largely halted privatisation after the chaotic sell-offs of state-owned resources of the 1990s that critics said handed over large swathes of its huge natural wealth to a clique of oligarchs at knock-down prices.

However the government has recently reversed its strategy due to the impact of the economic crisis, which plunged the budget into deficit, and also a desire to encourage foreign investment.

© 2010 AFP

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