Russia 101118 Basic Political Developments

FACTBOX-Russia's billion state asset sale

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FACTBOX-Russia's $32 billion state asset sale
Wed, Nov 17 2010

MOSCOW, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Russia has approved a plan to sell around 1 trillion roubles ($31.92 billion) in state assets including stakes in its two biggest banks and main oil producer, the government said on Wednesday.

Here are details of the biggest and most attractive companies. The size of the stake to be sold is in brackets:

VTB (VTBR.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) (10 percent)

Russia will kick off its privatisation plan by selling a 10 percent stake in second-biggest bank VTB to U.S. private equity group TPG [TPG.UL] for at least $3 billion.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) has been appointed to handle the sale, which should complete some time next year.

Shares in VTB, currently 85.5 percent controlled by the government, have risen more than 50 percent this year to value the company at $35.7 billion.

Its investment banking arm VTB Capital dominates the Moscow deal-making scene.

SBERBANK (SBER03.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) (9 percent)

Russia's biggest lender Sberbank has confirmed it will sell 9 percent of its shares -- including 3-4 percent in a public offer on the stockmarket -- in a deal that could raise $6.4 billion at current prices.

The $70 billion company, 60 percent owned by Russia's central bank, has around 20,000 branches and holds roughly half of all Russia's personal savings.

It managed to avoid making a loss during the financial crisis and is headed by German Gref -- a pioneer of economic reforms under Vladimir Putin's Presidency of 2000-2008.

SOVCOMFLOT (Unlisted, 25 percent)

Russia's economic ministry said earlier this month an IPO of a 25 percent stake in the state-owned shipping giant will take place next year.

Russia's largest shipping group specialises in oil transport and has 144 vessels.

Its 2009 net profit nearly halved to $217 million, while revenue fell 25 percent to $1.2 billion.

RUSSIAN RAILWAYS (Unlisted, 25 percent)

Russia will cede full control of its vast rail network when it sells 25 percent of RZhD (Russian Railways).

The company, which controls the world famous Trans-Siberian Railway and transports Russia's wealth of natural resources to the rest of the world, needs cash to improve aging Soviet infrastructure such as tracks and stations.

It raised $400 million via an initial public offering (IPO) of cargo unit TransContainer TRCNq.L earlier this month and may have generated as much as $4.8 billion by the time the divestment plan is completed. [ID:nLDE6A80K8]

AEROFLOT (AFLT.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) (minority stake est. 12 pct)

Russia's Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said last month a minority stake in flagship airline Aeroflot (AFLT.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) could be sold in 2011.

The government owns just over 50 percent of the carrier and is expected to retain control at least until 2015, suggesting that an 11.8 percent stake owned by the central bank could be up for grabs.

Aeroflot remained in the black through the financial crisis, announcing a trebling of net profit to $86 million in 2009. Its shares are up 43 percent in the year to date, valuing the company at $2.7 billion.

ROSNEFT (ROSN.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) (15 percent)

Russia's largest oil producer Rosneft is 75 percent owned by the Russian government but the state could offload a 15 percent stake between 2011 and 2013.

The company, which supplies about a fifth of Russia's oil, saw third-quarter earnings soar to $2.57 billion from $1.16 billion the previous year on higher production rates.

Company directors have said a stake sale may be difficult without a major reform of Russia's oil taxation system.

The company's free float is just 15 percent. The rest of the stock is held as treasury shares, which it bought back after raising $10.6 billion in an IPO in 2006. Rosneft shares are down 16 percent in the year to date.

FSK (FEES.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) (c.28 percent)

State-controlled Federal Grid Company, or FSK, posted first- half profit up 60 percent at 12.6 billion roubles after slumping to an overall loss in 2009.

Analysts say it remains vulnerable to ongoing electricity reforms as dictated by the Russian government.

FSK, nearly 80 percent controlled by the government, also owns part of electricity generator OGK-1 OGK.MM.

The shares are up 14 percent this year, valuing the group at about $14.4 billion.

RUSHYDRO (HYDR.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) (c.9 percent)*

Russia's largest hydroelectric power producer is 60.4 percent owned by the government and is also a part-owner of OGK-1.

In July it raised 9.2 billion roubles by selling new stock to shareholders to help fund repairs after a dam flood.

Its shares are up 37 percent this year, valuing the company at $14.8 billion.

AIZhK (Unlisted, c. 49 percent)

The state-owned mortgage agency charged with the development of the home loan market is Russia's equivalent of the Ginnie Mae National Mortgage Association in the United States.

ROSSELKHOZBANK (Unlisted, c. 49 percent)

The farm industry lender is one of the top 5 Russian banks by assets. It has total assets of around 900 billion roubles and received massive government support during the crisis.

Dmitry Patrushev, the 32-year-old son of Kremlin Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev -- a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- is RSHB's chief executive.

* Based on original draft plan published by Reuters in July

(Compiled by John Bowker and Conor Humphries; Editing by Erica Billingham) ($1 = 31.33 roubles)
EBRD: further modernization efforts needed to wean Russia off oil

November 18, 2010

Russia must improve its business and investment environment if it is to succeed in weaning the economy from its excessive dependence on oil and gas exports, the EBRD says in a report released on Wednesday.

The bank's Transition Report 2010, the latest edition of the annual publication which provides updates on the economies of all transition countries, says that Russia must boost its modernisation drive to raise service sector growth.

"Important steps have been made to facilitate progress toward the stated objective of turning Moscow into an international financial centre," the bank said its report, adding that further strengthening of banking supervision and regulation is needed.

The report also noted that although the economy appears to have turned the corner this year, it won't always be able to rely on having a stockpile of cash to protect it from the risks of an oil economy. GDP growth of 4% in the first half of 2010, following the economy's 7.9% contraction in 2009, was supported by a large fiscal stimulus.

"The challenge now is to consolidate the fiscal position without jeopardising the economic recovery," the report noted. The eventual depletion of the country's fiscal reserves will make the economy more volatile to swings in commodities prices and more must be done to raise efficiency, promote more effective competition, and follow best practice in corporate governance.

"Diversification of the economy away from excessive dependence on natural resources and modernising industry and services will depend on improving skills, creating an innovation-friendly environment through deregulation, and upgrading infrastructure," the bank said.

The EBRD also said that further power sector reform needs to be undertaken, specifically mentioning the privatization of distribution companies.

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