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Who Will Own Belarusian Railway?

Who Will Own Belarusian Railway?
By Gennady Kosarev
zautra.by
Director of the Belarusian Railway Enterprise Vladimir Zherelo said to journalists that the Enterprise might be transformed into a stock company this year with 100% of shares owned by the state. What stands behind this decision really?
Economist Mikhail Zalesky finds the Belarusian Railway to be a very profitable asset. He said that “it turns about a hundred million tonnes of just Russian goods a year. With regard to transforming this enterprise into a stock company, he said that it is the fist step for privatising this business.
“Turning an enterprise onto a stock company leads to another trick – issue more shares worth the real cost of the company’s assent, keep one share and sell 49 percent minus one share to someone. This way we can sell the Railway and keep it at the same time,” Zalesky explains.
Mikhail Zalesky reckons that the Belarusian authorities are getting ready to sell some other profitable enterprises as well. “Of course, the Belarusian Railway, Belavtodor, and other enterprises are more attractive when they are owned by shares, when they are free from any social obligations like kindergartens, Lenin monuments, and the likes – when it is a real commercial property,” reckons the economist.
“It is only a transition to a stock company, not privatisation as such. Many enterprises in Belarus were transformed into companies long ago but it didn’t result in them going private. This is just changing the form of ownership into separate shares,” Former Director of the Belarusian Entrepreneurs Union Alexander Potupa said.
Professor Potupa noted that the Belarusian Railway did not say who and on what terms will be entitled to the ownership of these shares. “It might be the case that some Russian companies will want to make an investment as Russia is directly interested in Belarusian transit and in developing Belarusian rail network,” reckons the economist. “Then we will be able to talk about some sort of privatisation, but it’s a big question whether this enterprise will ever be owned privately.”
Alexander Potupa also said that “when you need money you start selling your belongings”, so it depends on the Belarusian government as to whether the Belarusian Railway remains a Belarusian property. “If the present owner is able to keep its proprietorship, it will do its best to keep the controlling share portfolio to have the final word in decision making,” reckons the economist. “But I think such strategic enterprises will not be let go of during the next few years, and the Belarusian Railway shares will not be going on sale.”

 

 

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