Kazakh sovereign wealth fund told to double assets in five years

By bne IntelliNews October 7, 2014

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Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ordered national wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna to double the value of its assets over the next five years. The fund’s assets are currently valued at $100bn.

Nazarbayev told a Samruk-Kazyna forum in Astana on October 6 that the fund’s assets now accounted for 50% of the country’s GDP and state-owned companies run by Samruk-Kazyna paid KZT2.5 trillion  ($13.9bn) in taxes in the past three years. It now employs more than 350,000 people. Samruk-Kazyna manages state-owned assets such as oil and gas giant KazMunaiGas, railway operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, uranium producer Kazatomprom, Air Astana, and Kazakhtelecom.

The president suggested that the fund should increase its value by creating new portfolio companies and through increasing productivity and investment in efficient and profitable projects. Ultimately, at least three Samruk-Kazyna-run companies should be included in the Fortune-500 list of global companies with sales exceeding $5bn, he said. KazMunaiGas and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy qualify for the list at the moment.

Samruk-Kazyna is undergoing a restructuring programme to shed non-core assets. Umirzak Shukeyev, the fund’s head,  told the forum that under the programme, the number of the fund’s subsidiaries and dependent companies would be reduced from nearly 600 to 300 and the level of management levels would be cut from nine to four. Shukeyev said the fund had already cut operating costs by KZT128bn ($710m).

Lack of transparency and nepotism at state-owned companies remained a problem, the president complained. Nazarbayev threatened to sack Shukeyev if the companies continue to hire “one’s acquaintances”. “It is sufficient to make a call or be one’s acquaintance to place a person in a job who then sits there idle. This is the main problem,” the president said. “Mr Shukeyev, if you cope with this task you will work, if you don’t you will not work.”

Shukeyev told the forum that the restructuring programme aimed to improve management at state companies. “This will ensure an additional contribution to GDP worth KZT2,000bn or $11bn” by 2020, he said. Kazakhstan’s GDP stood at $220bn last year.

Samruk-Kazyna plans to get rid of non-core assets by privatising them fully or partially. The programme also envisages selling shares in national companies to the population in what’s known as a “people’s IPO”. Nazarbayev called for the plans to be made transparent to enable as many ordinary citizens as possible to buy shares. “We should involve a maximum number of Kazakhs in the programme, so each citizen could feel economic growth by increasing their own wellbeing through purchasing shares in companies which launch the ‘people’s IPO’,” Nazarbayev said.

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