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Putin ally says oil privatization still on the table

Head of Russian oil company Rosneft said to be considering grab of smaller rivals.

Daniel J. Graeber
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hears 2016 investment plans from the director of state oil company Rosneft. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Russian President
An oil executive in Russia said the privatization of one of the country's larger oil companies will be resolved when the timing is right.
According to Russian news agency Tass, a government spokesperson said in mid-August the privatization scheme for Bashneft was postponed.
The Kremlin has been reviewing privatization options as the Russian economy risks lingering in recession because of the strains brought on by Western sanctions and low crude oil prices. In March, finance officials said privatizing state oil companies could bring in billions of dollars to the federal budget.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an executive order that permits the sale of the first 50 percent stake of oil company Bashneft, but has so far not pressed the issue. That development followed statements from "senior officials" who spoke to news agency Bloomberg about a $5 billion cash offer from Igor Sechin, a longtime Putin ally and the head of Russian oil company Rosneft, for a major stake in the smaller Bashneft.
"The issues that are related to privatization of Bashneft will be resolved in a timely manner," he was quoted by Tass as saying.
Rosneft last reported a net profit of about $224 million, off 75 percent from last year. Bashneft reported that its second quarter cash flow was off more than 60 percent from the first quarter and net debt increased by around 16 percent.
For Rosneft, Tass reported the government's release of a 19.5 percent stake was still possible this year, though aides to the Russian president said delays were not out of the question.
According to the World Bank, the Russian economy will shrink by 1.6 percent GDP this year before recovery emerges in 2017.

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