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Russia may sell control in major state companies

MOSCOW, Nov 24 – Russia may sell controlling stakes in several top state companies oevr the next three years, cutting its participation to 25 percent, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Wednesday.

The Russian government has announced a new privatisation drive that could see stakes in some of the country\’s top state-controlled companies sold off for as much as 58 billion dollars in all.

In three years, "it\’s possible that we will decrease most of the stakes to 25 percent plus one share," RIA Novosti quoted Kudrin as saying.

The government has already approved a plan through 2013 that includes selling stakes of up to 50 percent in some of the country\’s largest state companies, including Rosneft, the Rushydro power generator, the Sberbank and VTB banks, and Russian Railways.

"Depending on how we manage through these three years, we\’ll go further," Kudrin said. "We want to make money from selling control" in these companies.

Until then, the state will retain stakes of 50 percent plus one share in its most important assets, said Kudrin.

Russia largely halted privatisation after the chaotic sell-offs of state-owned resources of the 1990s that critics say handed over large swathes of its huge natural wealth to a clique of insiders at knock-down prices.

But the government has now been forced to reverse this strategy due to the impact of the economic crisis, which plunged the budget into deficit.

The Vedomosti business daily said Wednesday the government is also considering swapping stakes in the Rosneft oil company and Russian Railways with foreign companies as a form of "flexible privatisation."

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