Russia could sell off state assets amid fiscal squeeze

Russia could sell off state assets amid fiscal squeeze
By bne IntelliNews November 6, 2015

Russia's state property agency Rosimushestvo says it is ready to speed up the privatisation of major state assets should this be recommended by the government with the president's backing.

Speaking to the parliamentary budget committee on November 5, Rosimushestvo head Olga Dergunova said such heavyweight companies as oil major Rosneft, the Rushydro hydropower holding, the Alrosa diamond major, national air carrier Aeroflot and the Sovcomflot maritime shipping company are ready for privatisation.

A 25% stake in Sovcomflot is already listed for privatisation in 2016, Dergunova added.

While the previous position of the leadership was that there should be no sell-off of state assets at any price, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov in October ordered a report on speeding up the privatisation process regardless of the market environment.

A source in the Ministry of Economic Development told Reuters that the ministry is now pushing to finally proceed with privatisation, fearing that market conditions will only deteriorate in the future.

"The old prices are not coming back. Neither Sberbank, nor VTB, nor Rosneft are going to be worth the same," the unnamed ministry representative said.

Meanwhile, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said "there has not been a shift in approach to privatisation," while adding that "selling highly underpriced assets is hardly possible, nor efficient".

Rosimushestvo currently targets RUB33.6bn ($0.4bn) in privatisation revenues for 2016, including RUB12bn from selling 25% in Sovcomflot and RUB5.4bn from stakes in smaller companies. Another RUB15.2bn could be raised from exercising a loanout option of AFK Sistema industrial holding to India's Shyam Telecom.

In March 2015, the Russian Audit Chamber said in a report on state property privatisation that the sale of state assets in 2010-2014 raised only a fifth of the anticipated funds. Revenues over the five years were RUB256bn ($4.26bn at current exchange rate), or only 21% of the target.

The much-discussed and continuously delayed plan to reduce the state's dominant role in the economy brought only a handful of large-scale anchor sales.

The sale of larger stake holdings such as in the Inter RAO power utility holding or the country's second largest bank VTB, made up the lion's share of all the revenues, at 75%, or RUB191bn.