Ukraine readies 2016 privatisation drive after false start in 2015

By bne IntelliNews January 14, 2016

The Ukrainian authorities have confirmed that they will sell off state stakes in 88 enterprises in 2016, including strategic state-run companies, which Kyiv failed to offer to potential investors last year.

Fair and transparent privatisation of state-owned property is one of the key promises of the current Ukrainian government under a programme agreed with the country's main donor, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, de facto Kyiv stalled the privatisation agenda in 2015, despite preparation of a priority-privatisation list of dozens of large state-owned companies and accompanying privatisation action plans.

According to the updated list published on January 13 by the State Property Fund (SPF) in Kyiv, these include 34 controlling stakes, including over 99% shares in state-owned Odesa Portside Plant (OPP). The government wanted to sell the port in November-December but was forced to postpone the sale to January-February.

OPP is a major chemical production company accounting for 17% of Ukraine's ammonium nitrate capacity and 19% of urea production capacity. Due to its strategic location and connections to chemical transportation infrastructure, the plant is export-oriented: export sales constitute up to 85% of output, while the major export destinations are the European Union and the United States.

The Property Fund also wants to sell over 99% shares in the state-run chemical fertiliser producer Sumykhimprom, as well as a 78.3% stake in Ukraine's second largest thermal power generator Centrenergo. The utility operates three power plants in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions and has its own repair services company Remenergo.

The list also included 50-70% stakes in four power distribution companies; controlling stakes in four heat and power plants; 25% stakes in five power distribution and generation companies controlled by energy conglomerate DTEK, which owned by the country's richest businessman Rinat Akhmetov.

Based on the 2016 state budget, privatisation should bring UAH17bn ($710mn) to Ukraine in 2015. "However, Ukraine has a long tradition of failing to meet its privatisation goals, which was the case in 16 of the last 19 years," Alexander Paraschiy at the Concorde Capital brokerage in Kyiv wrote in a research not on January 14. "Clearly, no one is banking on much proceeds this year as well."

According to official data, SPF raised just UAH140mn ($5.8mn) from privatisation in January-November 2015, compared with its full-year plan of $710mn.

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