TEHRAN: The Iranian government has sold almost 110 million dollars worth of shares in a leading steel company on the stock market, a new record for the nascent bourse, the press reported on 12 February.
Around 574 million shares in Mobarakeh were sold over the last two days for 109 million dollars as part of the government drive to privatise state-owned industry.
The sale represents 5% of shares in the company, based in the central city of Isfahan and valued at a total of 3.2 billion dollars. Around 42 % of the shares went to small investors.
The state currently has a grip on over three-quarters of Iran’s economy and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year issued a decree envisaging a major programme of privatisation.
Drawn up by the Expediency Council, Iran’s top political arbitration body headed by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the plan aims to slacken state control over the economy.
Khamenei last month made an important intervention to criticise the sluggish progress so far on privatisation, saying not enough attention was being paid to “creating a major evolution in the country’s economy.”
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded days later by pledging to drive ahead privatisation in Iran, saying the government was determined to “unscrew every bolt” to ensure its progress.
The programme set out by Khamenei to privatise 80%of public and state institutions notably excludes firms in the oil and energy sector as well as industries involved in work connected to defence and security.
Ahmadinejad has been criticised by observers to be dragging his feet on privatisation and seeking to hand out a large proportion of the shares in privatised companies as “justice” shares to the poor.