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By
Reuters
Published
Jul 24, 2007
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Uzbekistan announces to privatize over 1,400 firms

By
Reuters
Published
Jul 24, 2007

By Shamil Baigin

TASHKENT, July 24 (Reuters) - Uzbekistan announced an extensive plan on Tuesday to privatise more than 1,400 companies in industries ranging from car production to oil and gas over the coming years.

The former Soviet nation, whose political and business ties with Western nations have been tense since 2005, seeks to foster closer investor relations with Russia as well as with Asian nations including China, Japan and South Korea.

A renewed privatisation programme, published in the official media and signed by Uzbek President Islam Karimov, envisions the sale of 50 percent stakes in two car production companies, Uz-Daewoo Auto and SamAvto.

Other assets slated for sale include all electronic and agriculture machinery companies as well as a number of chemical plants.

The plan also includes the sale of 49 percent in state oil and gas company Uzbekneftegas, 49 percent in telecoms firm Uzbektelekom and 51 percent in Asaka, the second-biggest Uzbek bank. The government had earlier announced its intention to sell these assets.

The privatisation plan excludes Uzmetkombinat, the nation's sole steel producer, and Uzbekistan Airways.

Domestic and foreign investors have long pointed to risks associated with doing business in the Central Asian nation, especially after the West strongly criticised Uzbekistan for using force to quash an uprising in 2005.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said Uzbekistan's pace of transition to a market economy has been slow and uneven, while state control has hindered the functioning of markets and development of the private sector.

Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog, has described Uzbekistan as one of the world's most corrupt nations, based on 2006 data.

The state privatisation programme, which runs to 2011, states that the government would retain direct 51 percent stakes in 45 companies in key sectors such as energy, oil and gas, textile and others -- up from 37 companies previously.

At the same time it plans to cut the number of firms it would control indirectly through state companies to 29 from 55.

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