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Sat 9 Feb 2008 02:28 PM

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Iran in $90bn energy privatisation drive

Islamic republic plans to privatise 47 firms and set up a holding company for these assets, official says.

Iran plans to privatise 47 firms in its energy sector worth $90 billion and set up a holding company for these assets which it will list on four international exchanges, a National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) executive said.

The plan would see the oil and gas companies put under an umbrella group to attract foreign investment, Hojatollah Ghanimi-Fard, director of international affairs at NIOC, told the the London-based Middle East Economic Digest (Meed).

He said the firms would also be listed in Tehran by 2014.

"We decided the Iranian stock exchange may need to have some support financially from outside stock exchanges, especially for the oil sector, because the money involved is too much [for Iran]," Ghanemi-Fard told the magazine, without naming the firms.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude exporter, tried to revive its stalled privatisation plan in 2006 by ordering the floating of 80% of several firms. But it said the upstream oil sector and key banks would remain in state hands.

The 2006 list included NIOC subsidiaries, such as Petropars, set up in 1998 to help develop part of Iran's huge South Pars gas field and which has since signed energy deals in Venezuela.

Other NIOC subsidiaries included Petroiran Development Company and North Drilling Company. Firms affiliated to Iran's petrochemical industry were also on the list.

Deals have already been signed to list the holding company on markets in two of Iran's neighbours and two Asian countries, Ghanemi-Fard said, adding that more details would be given by the end of March. He declined to name the exchanges.

"Today, the valuation award is something close to a $90 billion book value, " Fard said. "But at the time they go to the stock market, based on the bidding you will see from those that want to buy it, the total amount will be more than that." (Reuters)

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