* Russia hopes to raise 30 bln roubles from sale
* No strategic or anchor investors wanted - sources
* State anxious to maintain control of group
By Gleb Stolyarov and Jack Stubbs
MOSCOW, May 18 Russia plans to sell part of
state shipping firm Sovcomflot next month, hoping to draw in a
wide range of small-stake investors rather than a strategic
buyer who could threaten Moscow's control of the group, banking
and industry sources say.
The current era of low tanker market prices is far from the
ideal time for Sovcomflot to raise revenue with a share offer,
as freight rates were at their highs in 2015. Sovcomflot
operates the world's second largest fleet of oil tankers.
But the tangled history of Russian privatisations has often
been driven as much by political and personal factors as
Sovcomflot is led by Sergei Frank, once transport minister
under President Vladimir Putin, whose privatisation programme is
an effort to replenish state coffers hit by the oil price
collapse and Western sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
The firm has long-term contracts with major energy
producers, making it one of the jewels in the programme.
Analysts say the deal could be especially favourable for
investors, because low oil prices are likely to push down the
current price of shares, with the prospect of big returns later.
A banking source close to the deal, and a government source,
said that the latest plan calls for a wide range of investors,
with no strategic or anchor investors involved.
"A strategic investor will ask for the right to be involved
in the management, one day or another. This is not what
Sovcomflot needs," a government source said.
The banking source said that the plan is to attract as wide
number of investors as possible, including foreigners. Both
declined to identify any potential bidders.
People familiar with the sale said there were plans for an
initial public offering in Moscow in June.
In emailed comments to Reuters, Sovcomflot declined to
comment on the details, saying that it was for the shareholder,
the Russian state, to decide.
The Economy Ministry, which is overseeing the privatisation,
said in emailed comments: "There is a high interest seen from
both Russian and foreign institutional investors."
Russia is selling 25 percent of Sovcomflot, and hopes to
earn as much as 30 billion roubles ($533 million) from the sale,
according to the finance ministry.
The firm ships oil from remote locations not connected to
the Russian pipeline system. These include some of Russia's
biggest fields, such as Gazprom Neft's Prirazlomnaya platform in
the Pechora Sea, or the ExxonMobil-led Sakhalin-1 project.
Sovcomflot also has the contract to ship liquefied gas from
Russia's newest liquefied natural gas plant, Yamal LNG.
"When you have 30-, 25-, 20-year-long contracts, it is an
easy-to-sell story, especially via IPO," the government source
First mooted in 2009, the launch of the privatisation has
been repeatedly stalled. The initial plan was to list Sovcomflot
in New York and Moscow, but the U.S. listing was dropped because
of sanctions, another banker said.
Sovcomflot itself is not subject to sanctions but "there is
an understanding it is better to do the deal here," the banker
The state budget is set to retain 75 percent of the funds
raised and the rest should go to the company to finance its
further development, two government sources said.
One of the government sources and two banking sources close
to the process said the aim was to close the sale by the end of
Sberbank CIB and VTB Capital, investment banking units of
Russia's two biggest and state-controlled banks, are arranging
Three shipping analysts said Moscow would get a better price
if it put off the sale for another year or two, when they see
rates for crude transport recovering after more than halving
"The best time to sell the Sovcomflot stake was 2015 and the
Russian government has already missed it," said Nikesh Shukla,
lead tanker shipping analyst at Drewry Financial Research
But Russia's government, with a budget deficit projected at
3.2 percent of GDP for 2017, needs the revenue. Estimates of
what could be raised by privatisations this year vary widely,
running as high as 200 billion roubles.
The state has said it aims to sell off or reduce its
holdings in almost 2,000 companies in 2017-2019.
The privatisations of old Soviet industries in the 1990s
brought accusations that state assets had been transferred at
bargain prices to "oligarchs" in exchange for political favours.
(Additional reporting by Olga Popova, Kira Zavyalova, Polina
Nikolskaya, Darya Korsunskaya and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by
Katya Golubkova and)