March 11, 2019 / 9:29 AM / 14 days ago

Oman says 25 investors interested in two power assets

DUBAI, March 11 (Reuters) - Oman has received 25 expressions of interest from investors interested in buying stakes in two electricity companies under a privatisation plan aimed at boosting state coffers, officials said on Monday.

Nama Group, a government holding company, plans to sell a 70 percent stake in Muscat Electricity Distribution and 49 percent of Oman Electricity Transmission. The firms have combined assets worth $3.2 billion.

Nama tweeted that it had received 14 offers for Muscat Electricity Distribution and 11 bids for Oman Electricity Transmission. It said 23 “strategic and financial investors” were among the bidders but did not name them.

Oman has outlined plans in recent years to sell off state assets as it seeks to confront fiscal deficits built up after a drop in oil prices. It forecast a 2019 budget deficit of 2.8 billion rials ($7.3 billion) or 9 percent of gross domestic product.

Last week, Moody’s followed other rating agencies and cut Oman’s credit rating to junk with a negative outlook, citing fiscal challenges at a time of moderate oil prices.

Mansoor al Hinai, a Nama vice president, told a news conference in Muscat on Monday that the deals are expected to be finalised by the end of 2019, local news website WAF News said.

It quoted him as saying that three other power distribution companies would be privatised in the second half of next year.

The Gulf Arab state has more than 60 state-owned firms but smaller energy reserves and lower oil output than wealthy Gulf neighbours, so it faces a bigger strain on its state finances as it continues to fund welfare programmes and create jobs. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Aziz El Yaakoubi Editing by Keith Weir)

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