Saturday, March 05, 2005


Iran to sell off $1.1b state assets this month.

TEHERAN ? Iran yesterday offered more than $1.1 billion worth of industrial assets for sale in March, in a second push to privatise lumbering state companies in the current fiscal year, officials said.

The shares belong to 51 state enterprises, mostly active in heavy industries such as aluminium, steel and shipbuilding.

?The shares on offer are worth 9,860 billion rials ($1.1 billion),? Mahdi Aghdaee, the deputy head of Iran?s Privatisation Organisation, told Reuters by telephone.

Some $2.5 billion of receipts were pencilled in to bolster the country?s budget in the fiscal year to March 20, but Iran?s drive to sell state assets ran into trouble, attracting too few buyers in a sale in October.

Officials blamed bad timing for the failure as the offering coincided with a heated international dispute over Iran?s nuclear programme.

As the nuclear issue still hangs in the air, it is not clear how Iran?s push for privatisation this month will be received by the market.

?I think 2005 is a buffer year for Iran. The market remains on hold to see what happens with the nuclear dispute and who will be Iran?s next president,? said an analyst who declined to be identified.

Iran holds presidential elections in June. Iran?s Privatisation Organisation said $711 million of state assets have been sold since March 2004.

"We now know that even if all assets on offer this month are sold, we won?t meet the budgeted target," Aghdaee said.

Shares of five state companies, including Arak Machinery Co., a major industrial complex in central Iran, will be offered on the stock market while other assets will be tendered in public.

Al-Mahdi Aluminium, Iran?s second-largest smelter in the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas with a capacity of 110,000 tonnes per year, is also due to be tendered.

Industry sources confirmed Britain?s Balli Group has shown interest in taking over the smelter, but estimated the Privatisation Organisation had overvalued it at $143 million.

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