September 1, 2015 / 4:06 PM / 2 years ago

Finland aims to raise $1.8 bln from sale of company holdings

HELSINKI, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Finland is planning to sell shares in state-owned companies worth about 1.6 billion euros ($1.80 billion) by 2018 to finance growth projects, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, the government had outlined some of these projects, such as helping to develop so-called clean tech businesses. It is also having to make deep spending cuts because of the country’s weak economy.

Finland’s economy is set to contract this year for the fourth year in a row partly because of weak demand in European and Russian markets and problems affecting its main export industries, including technology.

Eero Heliovaara from Finland’s state ownership steering department told Reuters the government would be likely to raise the proposed 1.6 billion euros from the sale of shares in state-owned companies.

He declined to specify the sales plan, but said that the sales were not intended to focus specifically on Solidium , the state’s investment arm that holds minority stakes in listed companies.

“We have a three-year plan in place ... Solidium will get off lightly ... I think there have been enough realisations in Solidium recently.”

In the past few years, the government has turned to Solidium for funds as part of its efforts to curb public debt growth. Solidium has sold shares in telecoms operator TeliaSonera and financial holding company Sampo worth in total of 2.9 billion euros.

Excluding Solidium, the state owns stakes of slightly more than 50 percent in three listed companies, oil refiner Neste , utility Fortum and airline Finnair .

The state also owns stakes in about 50 unlisted companies such as postal service company Posti Group, liquor maker Altia and environmental management group Ekokem.

$1 = 0.8890 euros Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl. Editing by Jane Merriman

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