Russia mulls 19 percent Rosneft stake sale in 2013: economy minister

MOSCOW Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:04am EDT

A logo of Russian state oil firm Rosneft is seen at its office in Moscow, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

A logo of Russian state oil firm Rosneft is seen at its office in Moscow, October 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's government is considering selling a 19 percent stake in state-controlled oil major Rosneft (ROSN.MM) this year as part of plans to speed up privatization, Economy Minister Andrei Belousov said.

Russia's plan to sell stakes in large firms and banks has slipped behind schedule, but officials are showing greater urgency to complete asset sales as a slowing economy dents tax revenues.

"I raised the issue during the government meeting that we need to speed up the process of large-scale privatization," Belousov told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Moscow.

The government has long been studying the possibility of selling a stake in Rosneft, whose market value is $77.5 billion.

The 19 percent it would look to sell comes on top of the stake already acquired by British oil major BP (BP.L), Belousov said.

BP (BP.L), which already had a small stake in Rosneft, ended up with 19.75 percent earlier this year after Rosneft's $55 billion acquisition of Anglo-Russian crude producer TNK-BP TNBP.MM.

As part of the TNK-BP deal, BP received $17 billion cash and a 12.84 percent stake in Rosneft. BP then bought 5.66 percent of Rosneft from state energy holding company Rosneftegaz.

"It's a strategic decision, on Rosneft," Belousov said. "There is already 5.66 percent (sold), we are talking about an additional package."

According to the government's mid-term privatization strategy, the state energy holding company should start cutting its 69.5 percent stake in Rosneft this year, with a complete sale by 2016.

Rosneft's powerful chief executive, former deputy premier Igor Sechin, has lobbied against a sale. He also chairs Rosneftegaz, enabling him to influence the government's approach to managing its assets.

Rosneft's shares fell 2 percent to 220.80 roubles, their lowest since the TNK-BP deal was announced in October.

Other privatizations planned this year are Aeroflot (AFLT.MM), Rostelecom (RTKM.MM), Sheremetyevo airport and United Grain Company, Belousov said.

(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin and Megan Davies; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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