Investors to be quizzed on potential state company sell off

The Russian government is preparing to ask investors which states companies and assets would be attractive business opportunities for investment and development, according to a Vedomosti report.

The proposal was put forth by deputy prime-minister Igor Shuvalov and Aleksey Uvarov from Russian ministry of economic development confirmed that a special document was being drawn up.

“We are working on the inquiry form which we will be sending to investors. We would like to know everything in detail: what sectors of the economy are attractive for investors, what specific companies and shares they would like to buy.”

He said that input would play an important factor in the years to come.

“We will consider the advice given by the investors as we prepare privatization plans for 2011 and the years after that.”

Presently the ministry takes these decisions on its own and according to Andrey Bugrov, managing director of Interros, the plans are not always effectively carried out. He expressed hope that the idea would provide for a new channel of communication between the state and private sector.

“If this window existed today, we would probably study the list of state-owned property to see if we could strike a deal.”

However, the idea has raised skepticism among some commentators such as Anton Danilov-Danilian, head of Expert Council of Delovaya Rossiya and former employee for Russia’s Presidential Administration. Danilov-Danilian does not expect a straight forward process.

“I don’t think investors will believe that the government is being sincere, therefore they will probably not give an adequate answer. They will probably see this as an information gathering process, when the government wants to get a feel of what the business community is interested in.”

He also said that investors would only look towards the most lucrative investments

“No one will want to buy manufacturing industries or high tech companies of the past.”

Igor Nikolaev, a partner at FBK (PFK Moscow) also thinks fear will play a factor in the answer provided by companies.

“Considering the political situation with the executive power, as they answer this, they will keep this question in the back of their minds – Will this information be used against us?”

Pavel Fuks, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Moseastgroup, believes that gas and oil industries must be privatized first, and that strict rules should be set for investors, in particular, concerning the development of new deposits and internal market supply while making sure that the government keeps the majority percentage of the company.

Alexandr Levedev, owner of NRK, says that infrastructure companies could also be of interest, but the government should hold audits and make the business transparent to investors.

“If somebody asks me to buy a state company, I will think twice before I do it. Because, for example, all Russian airlines are tools for hiding financial results.”