* Belarus plans sell-offs to raise cash
* Has valued the stake at $1 billion
* Failed to agree price with MTS
* MTS says remains interested but will not pay that much
(Adds analyst's comment, background)
By Andrei Makhovsky and Anastasia Teterevleva
MINSK/MOSCOW, April 8 Belarus intends to sell
its 51 percent stake in its local mobile phone joint venture
with MTS (MBT.N), Russia's biggest mobile telecoms company, a
Belarussian deputy prime minister told the state news agency.
MTS has said it is interested in buying out its partner in
the venture, but talks foundered on price, which President
Alexander Lukashenko has put at $1 billion.
The joint venture is the country's biggest mobile network
operator, with around 5 million subscribers out of a population
of 10 million.
"We are still interested in developing our business in
Belarus and buying the government's stake in our joint venture,
but at a reasonable price," an MTS spokeswoman said.
"If Belarus's government decided to put their own share up
for sale with an initial price of $1 billion, we do not rule out
we will simultaneously put our stake up for sale at the
comparable price," she said.
Analysts say such a move is unlikely though.
"I think they (MTS) are just trying to bargain for a lower
price," said RBS analyst Alex Kuznetsov.
Lukashenko, said last month the country was ready to sell
its stake for $1 billion. MTS vice president Oleg Raspopov said
on Tuesday the talks were continuing. [ID:nLDE72H0CY]
"These shares will go up for international tender. There was
a proposal from the Russian company to buy a controlling stake.
Negotiations were held but we could not agree on price," Deputy
Prime Minister Anatoly Kalinin was quoted by the BelTA news
agency as saying.
The move is in line with Belarus's plans to sell off state
property to help plug a trade deficit that has seriously
depleted central bank reserves.
The MTS joint venture stake is one of the three key assets
Minsk could sell, along with fertilizer producer Belaruskali and
Beltransgaz, the company that operates pipelines taking Russian
gas to Europe, Kuznetsov said.
(Writing by Richard Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow;
Editing by Greg Mahlich)