Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 209

In a decree signed on November 4, President Yeltsin has lifted restrictions on foreign ownership in Russian oil companies. Until now, foreign partners were restricted to a maximum of 15 percent of the shares in such companies. Now they will be able to acquire up to 100 percent control. The move has been welcomed by western commentators, who have described it as an important step toward the creation of an open market economy. The measure also gives rise to hopes that foreign capital will become available to revitalize derelict or obsolescent oil enterprises, and that higher bids will be attracted in the series of auctions planned for the next few months, when the government hopes to raise at least $4 billion through the sale of stakes in four state-owned oil companies. Bidding is expected to be especially fierce for control of the government’s 63 per cent stake in the Rosneft oil company. Rosneft is the last big Russian oil company still in state hands, and its sale alone could raise more than $1.5 billion. (Financial Times, BBC, November 4)