MOSCOW, May 17 (UPI) -- The privatization of Russian oil company Bashneft may be developing as early as the first part of this year, a development minister said.
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. Last month, Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said the potential exists for the government to unload its entire share in state oil company Bashneft.
Ulyukayev said Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an executive order that permits the sale of the first 50 percent stake. The entire deal may be closed this year with investment advisors lining up to chart the next actions necessary for privatization.
"It's technically possible to do it in the first half of the year," he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.
The Russian news agency reports Lukoil President Vagit Alekperov may be eyeing as much as half of the company.
Credit rating agency Moody's in April held its outlook steady for Bashneft, but maintained a negative outlook. Moody's said its decision was based in part on concerns about the long-term sovereign rating for Russia, which could impact state-controlled companies.
Bashneft in March said its net income was off more than 65 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2015. Year-on-year, the company said income increased 35 percent, which Bashneft President Alexander Korsik attributed to a commitment to a long-term strategy that was supportive of shareholder value.