Russia agrees on firms for privatisation: economic official

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The Russian government has agreed a list of eleven state firms, including its largest bank and oil firm, set to be partly sold off as part of a new wave of privatisation, an official said Wednesday.

The list includes Russia's leading bank Sberbank and top oil firm Rosneft, but contrary to initial expectations it excludes state railways operator RZhD, Alexei Uvarov of the economic development ministry said.

According to Russian press reports, the sales are expected bring the budget around 300 billion rubles (10 billion dollars, 7.7 billion euros) each year between 2011-2013 for a total of 883.5 billion rubles.

Uvarov, head of the department for asset relations at the ministry for economic development, said the list had been agreed by his ministry and the finance ministry, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The drive marks a major reversal of Russia's policy on state-owned firms, after largely mothballing privatisation over the last years after the chaotic early post-Soviet sales of state assets in the 1990s.

Also included in the privatisation drive would be national energy pipelines operator Transneft, state bank VTB and hydroelectric power operator Rushydro, he said.

Uvarov did not give further details but press reports have said finance ministry plans envisage selling 27.1 percent of Transneft, 24.16 percent of Rosneft and 9.3 percent of Sberbank.

All these companies have already been part-privatised. The state would keep a controlling stake in all the firms under the plan.

It is expected that proceeds from the sales would be used to shrink Russia's budget deficit, which ballooned during the economic crisis after years of surpluses in the good times.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the Russian budget deficit would be less than 5.0 percent of GDP in 2010, with the 2011 figure expected to sink to 3.6 percent of GDP.

The government is targeting a zero budget deficit in the next few years but Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin warned on Monday that Russia would have a zero-deficit budget "no earlier" than 2015.

The privatisations of the 1990s saw large swathes of Russia's huge natural wealth to a clique of oligarchs at knock-down prices but the state reasserted its control over the economy under Putin's rule.

© 2010 AFP

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