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Shuvalov Says Regional Asset Sales May Hit $10Bln Per Year

VLADIVOSTOK — The government may seek to double income from privatizations by selling regional state assets to help close the budget deficit, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Friday.

The federal government may take in about $10 billion a year over the next five years from asset sales, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said last month. Shuvalov said selling assets belonging to major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg "on a national scale" may generate the same annual income.

"There's a huge number of interesting companies, from infrastructure to the financial industry," Shuvalov said in an interview. "We will develop specific plans with the regions on individual companies. Three hundred billion rubles ($10 billion) should be the minimum target for them."

State asset sales will cover 16 percent to 17 percent of the budget deficit in the next three years, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina said last month. The government is seeking to boost revenue to narrow the deficit, which may reach 5.3 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Russia will not sell stakes in any major companies this year except VTB Group, the country's second-largest lender, Nabiullina said Wednesday. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said a day earlier that the government may become a minority shareholder or sell its entire stake in some state assets, though "this would take time."

Shuvalov said the government would confirm the list of federal companies in which it will sell stakes "in the next few days."

"A lot of infrastructure companies at the regional level need capital and could attract investors because they could return investments in the foreseeable future," Shuvalov said. "Any projects could return invested capital over 10-15 years."

Privatization is a key part of the regional development program the government is considering, Shuvalov said.

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