Wednesday, February 11, 2009

RPT-Romania plans listed fund to hold corporate stakes

BUCHAREST, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Romanian privatisation agency AVAS plans to set up an investment fund for the minority stakes it holds in 376 firms and list it on the Bucharest bourse, agency head Mircea Ursache said on Wednesday.

Such a fund, he said, would help the agency cut down on huge administration costs, he said.

"The idea to create an investment fund ... to be listed immediately is economically advantageous," Ursache, who was recently appointed to head AVAS, told a news conference.

The agency has 412 companies on its books left to privatise, with a total share capital of 3.23 billion lei ($977 million). It controls majority stakes in 36 of these companies.

AVAS, which had initially said it wants to sell most of its portfolio last year undershot its plans due to deteriorating market conditions as investors cried off due to the mounting world crisis.

Most of the companies still in its portfolio are outdated, indebted, small or unprofitable. However, it still has its flagship asset, Antibiotice Iasi (ATBE.BX), Romania's sole state-controlled drugmaker.

On Wednesday Ursache said Romania should not hurry with the sale of Antibiotice, as a sell-off in the current market conditions would be "inopportune and imprudent". ($1=3.306 Lei) (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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