Russia triples size of state sell-off drive: report

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Russia is tripling the size of its planned privatisation programme -- aleady the world's largest -- under a revised government plan released this week, a news report said on Thursday.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said on Wednesday that President Dmitry Medvedev had approved a far-reaching new privatisation effort that will see the state sell its entire stakes in major corporations by 2017.

The original privatisation plan announced last year was meant to raise 1.8 trillion rubles ($65 billion), but this has been increased substantially in the six trillion rubles ($215 billion, 151 billion euros) envisioned under the revised programme, RIA Novosti reported.

The agency cited a source in one of the government's economic departments as saying the six trillion ruble figure was "approximate".

The Vedomosti business daily separately quoted an official economy ministry estimate as saying the programme would raise five trillion rubles ($180 billion) by 2017.

Shuvalov's programme would see such national champions as the Rosneft oil giant and the Alrosa diamond producer and a handful of other companies go fully private and the state retain only veto rights.

The decision appears to mark a fundamental shift in economic strategy following years in which the state drafted protectionist measures that guaranteed its ownership of the country's biggest Soviet-era firms.

Other big names on Shuvalov's list include Russia' power generating company RusHydro and the state-run grain trader United Grain Company (OZK).

The government would also partially privatise such opaque firms as the Transneft oil pipeline operator and the Russian Railways (RZD) monopoly starting next year.

RZD chief executive Vladimir Yakunin said on Thursday he would prefer to see the first stakes of his firm put up for sale starting in 2014.

© 2011 AFP

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