Moscow sends out mixed messages about Russian privatisation programme

Russian privatisation programme: Two oil firms — Rosneft and Bashneft — and diamond producer Alrosa are among the most likely candidates for privatisation this year, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said yesterday, despite a statement from President Putin earlier this week that the Kremlin should retain control of strategic assets.
The three companies were already being traded on stock markets which them easier to sell, Ulyukaev was quoted as saying in TASS on Wednesday. At current market prices, the government’s shares in Basheft and Alrosa are between them  worth around $7.5bn, and the 19.5% share in Rosneft  that it proposes to sell could raise a further $6.5bn.
Officials have been floating the idea of a major sale of nationalised companies as a way of filling the hole left in government revenues by the  low price of oil; but earlier this week Putin insisted  that state-run enterprises should not be sold “at giveaway prices.”
With the energy industry suppling around half of Russia’s budget revenues, however, analysts believe a fiscal emergency could force the issue. The current spending plan for 2016 anticipated an average price for the year of $50 per barrel and a deficit of $35bn, but the price of a barrel of crude fell sharply again  in January and now stands at around $30 per barrel.