LONDON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Oil major LUKOIL has told the Russian government it wants to buy mid-sized rival Bashneft, with the state still studying whether to sell a controlling or minority stake in the firm to plug a budget deficit, sources told Reuters.
The government owns 75 percent of Bashneft, which it nationalised only two years ago. It is considering whether to sell a stake of more than 50 percent, or to limit the sale to 25 percent through a stock market offering, several government and industry sources said.
"There are many parties showing interest, including LUKOIL," a government source said.
LUKOIL declined to comment. It is Russia's second-largest oil producer and its biggest private oil firm, already producing as much oil as OPEC nations Angola or Nigeria.
Hit by collapsing oil prices, the government of President Vladimir Putin has ordered a privatisation drive to cover a budget deficit and is also considering selling stakes in oil major Rosneft, shipping firm Sovkomflot and diamond miner Alrosa.
A Bashneft sale would represent a significant turnaround after more than 15 years of non-stop consolidation and nationalisation of the world's largest energy industry, which allowed the Kremlin to regain control after a chaotic privatisation in the 1990s. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov)