Bashneft sale postponed to calm infighting: Insiders
By Katya Golubkova
MOSCOW, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the government should not discriminate against any market players willing to bid in the privatisation of oil producer Bashneft.
Answering a question about interest in Bashneft from oil major Rosneft, Putin said it was not the best option if one state-controlled company acquired another state company, but the key was who gives the most money for the state budget.
“Rosneft, strictly speaking, is not a state company. Let us not forget that a part of it is owned by BP, a British company,” Putin said in an interview with Bloomberg, according to a transcript published on the Kremlin’s website.
The government decided last month to postpone the privatisation of a 50.1 percent stake in Bashneft, a midsize oil producer.
Sources close to the deal and the government said the delay was intended to calm infighting between, on one hand, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and his allies, and on the other side rival Kremlin groups who want Bashneft to stay out of Rosneft’s hands.
In the interview, Putin did not clearly indicate who he thought should buy Bashneft.
“At the end of the day, for the budget it’s important who will give more money during the sale … In this sense, we cannot discriminate (against) market players, none of them,” Putin said.
Revenue from the Bashneft privatisation is needed to fill holes in the state budget, which is running a deficit of 3 percent of gross domestic product this year.
With that transaction postponed, the planned sale of a 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft will be next on the privatisation schedule.
Putin said the state was actively preparing for the Rosneft privatisation and the sale was planned to happen this year. He said, though, the state would not sell the asset “at any price”.
He added that in his opinion, strategic investors should buy into Rosneft.
Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said his ministry had received proposals on how to conduct the Rosneft privatisation from Italian bank Intesa, which has been selected as an adviser on the deal.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Christian Lowe; Writing by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Dale Hudson)