TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan may soon sell shares in some its biggest state companies, including energy firm Uzbekneftegaz and gold and uranium miner Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combine, the head of the state asset management body said on Friday.
The former Soviet republic plans to offer minority stakes in such companies on the domestic stock market before listing them abroad, Sunatulla Bekenov, head of the State Asset Management Agency said.
The privatisation campaign is part of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s broader reform drive aiming to modernise and open up Uzbekistan’s economy which was run under a Soviet-style command system by his predecessor Islam Karimov.
The Uzbek market remained underdeveloped during Karimov’s 1989-2016 rule, with almost no foreign presence.
“Even as we maintain majority state ownership in certain strategic companies such as those in the oil and gas industry and mining... we will make their shares available on the market so that the external investors we attract can evaluate the efficiency of their management,” Bekenov told a financial conference in Tashkent.
He said the agency has drafted a list of 20 companies that it thinks should be listed first and would seek the government’s approval.
The list includes Uzbekneftegaz, the national energy company and the Central Asian nation’s biggest gas producer, and the Navoi combine which is one of the world’s biggest uranium miners and also mines gold.
It also includes Uztransgaz, a company that runs gas pipelines in the nation of 33 million, silver and gold miner Almalyk Mining and Metals Combine, and several banks.
Saida Mirziyoyeva, elder daughter of the president and deputy head of the state agency for information and mass communications, also threw her weight behind the plan, saying the state would ensure transparency of the privatisation process.
“Our agency fully recognises... the high standards demanded by the international capital markets industry,” Mirziyoyeva said at the capital markets conference.
So far, Uzbekistan has sold on the local market small stakes in two companies, a machinery plant and a glass manufacturer.
The stocks have been available to both Uzbek and foreign buyers and, according to Kazakh broker Freedom Finance which was involved in the listings, some Kazakh investors have expressed interest in the most recent placement.
Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov