Kazakhtelecom may be first key state company to list abroad in 2018

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Kazakhstan’s largest telecom operator may be the first of three big state-run companies to list abroad in 2018, an executive at the Kazakh sovereign wealth fund said on Monday, as the country looks to attract billions of dollars in its privatization drive.

Samruk Kazyna, the $67 billion sovereign wealth fund, pitched eight of the largest companies in its portfolio to Chinese investors and investment banks in a Hong Kong forum.

The fund is gauging demand from fund managers and other institutional investors for potential listings from flag carrier Air Astana [IPO-AIRA.HK], uranium miner Kazatomprom [KZTPR.UL] and Kazakhtelecom.

Five smaller companies, including national postal services operator Kazpost and power generator Samruk Energy, are likely to sell stakes to strategic buyers.

The size of the stakes to be sold varies, ranging from 26 percent for Kazakhtelecom - in which Samruk Kazyna now owns 51 percent - to 100 percent for some other state-run companies up for sale.

“It’s not decided yet who will go first, because the preparation procedures, like due diligence, have just started in Air Astana and Kazatomprom,” Dauren Tasmagambetov, the head of asset restructuring and privatization at Samruk Kazyna, said in an interview.

“For Kazakhtelecom, we know the situation better. At this point we see they’re more ready than others.”

No decision has been made where the companies will list, Tasmagambetov said, but Air Astana has mentioned Hong Kong, London or Singapore as possible.

The fund saw “a lot of interest” from potential investors at the forum, he added, as well from investment banks looking to arrange some of the deals.

Samruk Kazyna also brought national maritime shipping company Kazmortransflot, the United Chemical Company and national mining firm Tau-Ken Samruk to look for investments from Chinese firms.

Samruk Kazyna tapped China International Capital Corp, China’s oldest investment bank, to organize the Hong Kong event, looking to secure funding from large state-owned enterprises. China is pouring billions into its Belt and Road initiative around Asia.

“Considering the geographical position of Kazakhstan, we definitely see that the goals of our privatization program fully coincide with the goals of the Belt and Road program,” Tasmagambetov said. “Therefore we’re ready to offer a number of assets which could be potentially of interest to Chinese investors.”

Reporting by Elzio Barreto, editing by Larry King