June 2, 2017 / 2:31 PM / 3 months ago

INTERVIEW-New Kazakh bourse targets IPOs from country's privatisation scheme

* Astana bourse to open in January

* Targets IPOs as govt sells stakes in big companies

* Has agreement with Nasdaq to use its technology

* Wants foreign bourses to become shareholders

By Katya Golubkova

ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 2 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's new stock exchange, due to open next year, hopes to attract the bulk of initial public offerings planned under the central Asian nation's privatisation programme, the bourse's operator said on Friday.

Its targets include flag carrier Air Astana and uranium miner Kazatomprom, said Kairat Kelimbetov, governor of Astana International Financial Center (AIFC).

AIFC, an economic zone modelled on Dubai's International Financial Center, will run the new stock exchange in Astana, which is due to start operating in January 2018.

The oil-rich former Soviet republic plans to sell stakes in some of its biggest state-owned companies, including national oil company KazMunayGaz, by 2020, with some due to be floated.

"We plan that a significant part of the IPOs will take part on the new stock exchange in Astana," Kelimbetov, a former chairman of Kazakhstan's central bank, told Reuters on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia.

Companies like Air Astana and Kazatomprom could opt to list some shares overseas - and Air Astana has mentioned Hong Kong, London or Singapore as possibilities - but Kelimbetov said he expected they would choose to list a large portion in Astana.

AIFC will own a stake in the new bourse, but will not insist on retaining a controlling stake and wants foreign bourses such as the U.S. Nasdaq and the Shanghai Stock Exchange to become shareholders, he said, adding AIFC was in talks with both.

AIFC has already signed an agreement with Nasdaq to use its technology.

Kazakhstan's existing stock exchange, based in the commercial hub Almaty, has never taken off as a fully fledged equities market. Stock trading makes up less then 1 percent of its total trading volume, which is dominated by foreign exchange and money market operations.

Global index compiler MSCI considers Kazakhstan a frontier market, the least developed category, and its MSCI Kazakh Index comprises just two stocks - Kazmunaigas Exploration and Halyk Savings Bank - both of which have dual listings in Almaty and London.

Kelimbetov said AIFC hoped that by securing partnerships with foreign exchanges, which would bring their technology and investor base with them, it could develop the market. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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