World News

Iran gives stakes in petchem, power units to army fund

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has transferred shares in six petrochemical plants and power stations to a social welfare investment organisation of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces, state-owned Press TV said on its website.

“The transfer was reported to have been in lieu of the government debt to the Armed Forces Pension Fund,” Press TV, an English-language satellite station, said on Friday evening.

The stakes, transferred following a cabinet decision, ranged from 23 percent to 100 percent, it said. The companies included Bushehr Petrochemical Company, Marun Petrochemicals and Pars Petrochemicals.

“In return, SATA (Armed Forces Social Welfare Investment Organization) is obliged to complete and commission the Bushehr petrochemical project within four years,” Press TV said.

It said the Iranian Privatization Organization can offer the shares on the market on behalf of SATA. The amount it received would be deducted from the state’s debt to SATA.

Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, is seeking to speed up the sale of state assets in a bid to encourage private investment and boost the economy, which is under U.S. and U.N. sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme.

Earlier in April, a senior privatisation official said Iran aimed to raise about $12.5 billion by privatising more than 500 state firms during the 2010-11 year, including two refineries and two car makers.

Western firms are increasingly wary of investing in Iran due to the long-running nuclear row, and analysts say some of the companies that are put up for sale may simply end up being transferred within the country’s vast public sector.

Last year, a consortium linked to the elite Revolutionary Guards took a controlling stake of 50 percent plus one share in the Telecommunications Company of Iran in a deal valued at around $7.8 billion.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the charge and says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.

Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan