Friday, January 21, 2011

Romania may raise 1.5 bln euros in share sales

By Natsuko Waki

LONDON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Romania's Fondul Proprietatea expects the government to raise nearly 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) selling shares in state-owned companies in the next couple of years, the fund's manager said.

Franklin Templeton, which manages Fondul -- a fund created to compensate citizens whose property was confiscated during communism -- said the government planned to sell shares of energy groups Petrom (SNPP.BX: Quote) (OMVV.VI: Quote), Transgaz (TGNM.BX: Quote) and Transelectrica (TSEL.BX: Quote) later this year in a secondary market.

Fondul's fund manager and Templeton's chief executive Grzegorz Konieczny told a briefing in London on Thursday that the Petrom stake is likely to fetch 400-500 million euros, while Transgaz and Transelectrica would each go for around 50 million euros.

He added gas producer Romgaz and power firms Hidroelectrica and Nuclearelectrica may place initial public offerings in 2012, possibly each for about a few hundred million euros.

Recession-hit Romania, which received a 20-billion-euro bailout deal from the International Monetary Fund, plans to cut its budget deficit partly through the stake sales but political bickering and poor market conditions have caused delays.

"In order to pay back the IMF programme, the government has to sell holdings. Money is the main driver," Konieczny said.

The state controls 39 percent of the Fondul fund itself, with a further 41 percent belonging to individuals -- some of whom lost property after leaving Romania during the communist era.

Certain restrictions apply to the voting rights for large holdings, until the state control falls below 33 percent.

Konieczny said the government's holdings will fall below this critical 33 percent later this year.

"We expect the government to effectively lose control of the fund this year," he said.

Konieczny said the fund may consider a secondary share listing either in London, Warsaw or Vienna and will put recommendations to shareholders this summer.

David Smart, global head of sovereign and supranational funds at Franklin Templeton, said the fund should appeal to other sovereign wealth funds keen to gain exposure to energy and infrastructure industries.

The fund holds stakes in 83 private and state-owned companies, with its portfolio weighing heavily on power, oil and gas sectors, and aims to list shares on the Bucharest Stock Exchange next week.

Templeton said this will triple liquidity in the stock exchange, boosting the appeal of Romania.

"It can be a proxy for Romanian allocation," Smart said. ($1=.7413 Euro) (Editing by Sam Cage and Jon Loades-Carter)

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