Russian recession set to deepen

Reports –

With substantially lower oil prices slashing state revenues, the central bank said the economy could shrink by about 1.0 percent in the first three months of this year from the previous quarter.

That would be a fall of between 1.7 and 2.5 percent year-on-year. Russia’s economy shrank 3.7 percent in 2015.

The economic crisis has prompted a planned sell off of stakes in some of Russia’s largest companies by President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has said foreign investors would be welcome to take part in the privatisation, but the feeling in the business world is they will not want to take the risk and that Russian oligarchs are the most likely potential buyers for the assets.

But the pool of buyers may be limited as the president has already said Russian companies with offshore accounts will not be eligible to purchase.

Reuters reported that the government is considering reducing state stakes in oil companies Rosneft andBashneft, shipping firm Sovcomflot, diamond minerAlrosa and state-controlled bank VTB.

Two officials familiar with the discussion on privatisation told Reuters that four percent of Rosneft could be sold on the Moscow stock exchange, but there is reluctance to do so, considering the super-low price of the company’s shares and any potential buyers will be cautious given that oil prices are still on a downward trajectory.

“Some assets will be sold – the budget needs cash,” said Sergei Aleksashenko, a former deputy central bank governor and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington. “But overall the proceeds from privatisation will be much less than the drop in oil revenues.”

Such a move would not be popular in Russia as according to opinion polls more than half of Russians oppose privatisation, and it may never happen as several ambitious privatisation plans announced by the Kremlin in the past decade failed to materialise.

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       Getty image.

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