(Adds detail on pension funds’ participation, no comment from Lazard and Oppenheimer paragraphs 9-11)
MOSCOW, July 11 (Reuters) - Russia will press on with major privatisations this year, senior government officials said on Monday, after the sale of a further 10.9 percent stake in diamond company Alrosa raised 52.2 billion roubles ($813 million).
The deal, the largest state ownership sale for almost four years, is being heralded as a success by the government - especially as it comes after a period during which investor sentiment towards Russia has been soured by low oil prices and Western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
But it remains to be seen whether other state sell-offs planned for this year will be as straightforward.
“Foreign investors showed that despite the sanctions regime, there is interest in liquid Russian assets,” said Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who also emphasised that the sale took place despite market ructions caused by Britain’s vote last month to leave the European Union.
He said foreign investors had snapped up around 60 percent of the shares offered in Alrosa, the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds in carat terms.
Demand was more than double what was on offer, he added.
“We had attracted serious investors via the Russian Direct Investment Fund - funds from the Gulf,” First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told reporters, saying European, Asian and U.S. investors had also taken part.
Sources close to the deal told Reuters last week that the potential foreign investors included Oppenheimer Funds and Lazard, two investment funds that had participated in Alrosa’s IPO in 2013.
However, a source familiar with the deal told Reuters on Monday that they did not participate.
Lazard and Oppenheimer declined to comment.
According to VTB Capital, Russian non-state pension funds bought about 20 percent of the offered shares.
Nevertheless, a central role was also played by the state-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund, acting in partnership with Middle Eastern sovereign funds.
And the sale price of 65 roubles per share appeared to have been lower than planned, according to Russian media reports that said the government had originally wanted 71 roubles per share.
The shares on offer were discounted by 3.77 percent to the closing market price on Friday, said Dmitry Pristanskov, the head of Russia’s state property management agency.
Alrosa’s share price was up 1 percent at 68.2 roubles on Monday, slightly outperforming the MICEX index but giving up earlier gains of over 2 percent.
The privatisation programme is important for the Kremlin as it needs to replenish state coffers depleted by low oil prices.
Ulyukayev confirmed government plans to sell stakes in oil firms Rosneft and Bashneft, as well as in shipping company Sovcomflot and VTB bank.
Shuvalov also said the overall privatisation plan was on track.
“We had originally said that the main deals would take place in the second half of 2016. We are moving according to plan,” he told reporters. “We are now working with potential investors on Rosneft.”
The RIA news agency quoted him as saying later on Monday that the government has dropped the idea of selling a 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft into the market, favouring strategic investors instead.
There has long been speculation that Rosneft, the world’s largest listed oil company by production, would be sold to oil companies from China or India to cement ties with Asian partners.
The 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft would be worth over $10 billion at the current market price.
Ulyukayev said the government aimed to net up to 1 trillion roubles ($15.58 billion) from privatisation sales this year.
$1 = 64.2023 roubles Additional reporting by Olga Popova; Writing by Katya Golubkova, Dmitry Solovyov and Jason Bush; Editing by Greg Mahlich, David Evans and David Goodman
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