MOSCOW, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Russian oil producer Rosneft is on pace to become a private enterprise by the end of the year, a Russian economic official declared Thursday.
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. Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said some of those plans could be finalized yet this year.
"We'll make it in time regarding Rosneft privatization this year," he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.
Tass reported previously the government's release of a 19.5 percent stake was still possible in 2016, though aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin said delays were not out of the question.
With Russia's economy on pace to shrink another 1.6 percent this year before emerging from recession next year, privatizing state oil company Rosneft could bring in up to $6.5 billion to a federal budget struggling under the strains of lower crude oil prices.
Russia has mulled a sale of Rosneft to business entities in China or India, which would correspond with an economic focus on Asian markets. The Kremlin has pivoted more toward Asia amid geopolitical strains brought on by crises in Ukraine, through which most of the Russian natural gas for Europe moves.
According to Russian media, the privatization of another energy company, Bashneft, has been postponed.
Putin in May 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.