Aeroflot privatisation put off until 2020 – but Bashneft sale still on the cards

Aeroflot privatization: Russia’s flagship national airline will not be privatized before 2020 at the earliest, the Economic Development Ministry’s director of Corporate Governance Oksana Tarasenko said yesterday, but Moscow may still go ahead with its plans to sell off its stake in Bashneft,  despite reports last month that the sale had been postponed.
Tarasenko’s remarks  came in an interview with Bloomberg  and would appear to scotch rumours that emerged over the summer that the oligarch and long-term Putin ally Arkady Rotenberg was eying up a deal to buy half the state’s controlling 51.17%  stake in the country’s national carrier, a move that was strongly opposed by Aeroflot’s Chairman and CEO Vitaly Saveliev.
 “I believe that for a country like Russia, it is dangerous not to have a state-run airline,” he  told the Financial Times in July, arguing that, with the country’s economy in recession, the government needed the airline to ensure affordable transport across its far-flung territories and to limit the fallout from the collapse of Transaero last year.
In the same interview, however, Tarasenko implied that the sale of Bashneft could still go ahead by the end of 2016 – and that Rosneft, whose determination to participate has been the source of some very public disagreements between CEO Igor Sechin  and several  senior members of the government including Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev and Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev  – may be allowed to bid after all. 
“From a legal perspective, Rosneft’s participation in Bashneft’s privatization is possible,” he said. “For the government, the  most important thing is to start  a bidding war and to get the maximum possible price. ” The sale could take place any time between now and the end of the year, he added. “Right now, share prices are at a high level, and there’s interest in the deal.”
With the Russian Reserve Fund expected to run out of money sometime in the course of 2017, the government is looking at ways of plugging a $6.5bn budget deficit with increasing urgency.