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Sat 14 Jul 2007 11:31 PM

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Iran to sell shares in energy firms

17 energy-related firms will be listed on stock exchange as part of a long-running privatisation drive.

Iran plans to sell shares of 17 energy-related firms on the country's stock exchange, an Iranian official was quoted as saying on Saturday, part of a long-running effort to sell off state assets.

Mehdi Aghdaie, deputy head of the privatisation organisation who was quoted by Fars News Agency, said the firms would be listed on Iran's stock exchange but gave few other details, such as a listing date or how big a stake would be sold.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the state entity in overall charge of upstream oil and gas production from the world's fourth biggest oil exporter, was not on the list.

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

The 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.

Analysts see Iran's planned privatisation programme as an attempt to breathe life into its uncompetitive industry, but say international fears over the country's nuclear programme are among factors that could deter foreign investors.