September 22, 2016 / 3:16 PM / a year ago

Oman reshuffles state holdings in step towards privatisation

MUSCAT, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Oman’s finance ministry has begun transferring stakes it owns in listed and private companies to other state-owned corporates and sovereign funds, the country’s undersecretary of finance said on Thursday, a move that could pave the way for them to be privatised in the future.

Oman has already outlined plans to sell off state assets as it seeks to cope with a budget shortfall in the wake of lower oil prices.

The aim is to move the stakes to new owners that are more of a natural fit. The ministry’s stake in Salalah Port Services Co. , for example, was transferred earlier this month to Oman Global Logistics Group, which has interests in transport and support services.

Nasser al-Jashmi said the transfer of stakes from the government level was aimed at making their operations more efficient and also to improve the management of the companies.

“We are transferring logistics-related assets, and the same applies to other sectors,” Jashmi said, noting sector-specific owners could manage them in a synchronised way which coordinated with industry strategies.

Notifications to the Muscat Securities Market this week showed the Ministry of Finance transferred its stakes in Oman and Emirates Investment Holding Co. and Port Services Corporation to the Oman Investment Fund. The bourse filings gave no further details.

Jashmi declined to elaborate on what other assets would be sold or the size of the total asset transfer plan. But he said it would be up to the new owners to evaluate the assets and restructure them if needed.

Oman has more than 60 state-owned companies, while the government also holds stakes in many listed firms. (Reporting by Fatma Al Arimi; Writing by David French. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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