March 26, 2018 / 5:31 PM / a year ago

Albania to float state electricity distributor this year -PM

TIRANA, March 26 (Reuters) - Albania aims to float state-owned electricity distributor OSHEE on the stock market this year, Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Monday.

If it goes ahead, it will be the first public offering of shares in a major state-owned company in Albania, but Rama did not say how many shares would be sold or which part of the company would be listed.

OSHEE, a state monopoly, is currently being split into three companies: distribution, retail and commercial operations, in line with European Union directives, officials said.

“We have started work for an IPO and hope to be ready by the end of the year...,” Rama told a meeting attended by government and EU officials, among others, to outline the Balkan country’s power strategy.

“Our ambition is to get the massive participation of citizens as shareholders so both the company and the citizens could benefit,” Rama said.

The European Union is a major donor to Albania, which also wants to join the bloc.

The Albanian government plans to sell stakes in some other big state companies including oil company Albpetrol but has not set a timeframe.

A drain on the state budget for most of the time since Albania dumped communism in 1990, OSHEE cut its group debt to 49.5 billion leke ($473 million) by August 2017, from 67.8 billion leke three years earlier.

Artan Gjergji, the head of the Albanian Stock Exchange, said floating shares in OSHEE was likely to stimulate activity on the exchange, and for the first time give Albanians a chance to buy shares, like citizens of other former communist East European countries.

Albania aims to liberalise its power sector and open it up to competition by 2025.

$1 = 104.7300 leke Reporting By Benet Koleka; Editing by Susan Fenton

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