Bashneft privatisation postponed indefinitely
MOSCOW, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has postponed the privatisation of oil producer Bashneft, his spokeswoman said on Tuesday, a surprise move she said was approved by President Vladimir Putin.
The privatisation of the mid-sized company was meant to be one of the crown jewels of this year’s privatisation programme and was set to pit some of Russia’s most powerful businessmen and officials against each other.
In recent weeks tensions over Bashneft had reached a climax, with Russian oil Tsar Igor Sechin appealing to the Russian government to allow his company to participate in the stake sale.
Natalia Timakova, Medvedev’s spokeswoman, did not say how long the stake sale had been delayed for.
Russia’s RBC news organisation reported earlier on Tuesday that Medvedev made his decision after the head of the internal Russian republic of Bashkortostan, where some of Bashneft’s production assets are based, wrote to the Kremlin.
Russia had planned to auction a 50 percent stake in the company, part of a drive to plug holes in the government budget caused by a slump in oil prices and Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Aside from Rosneft, whose head Sechin is a close ally of Putin, pretenders for the Bashneft stake included Vagit Alekperov, one of Russia’s richest men who heads private oil firm Lukoil.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrew Osborn)