UPDATE 1-Russia considering freeze in regulated prices in 2014
* Prime minister Medvedev orders government to consider regulated price freeze
* Plan would impact major companies in gas, railways, electricity
* Would help lower inflation but negative for investors
MOSCOW, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Russia is considering whether to forgo annual increases in prices for state-regulated utilities such as gas, electricity and railways in 2014, according to a directive issued by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Friday.
The directive, published on the government's website on Friday, instructed the Ministries of Economic Development, Finance, Transport and Energy, and also the Federal Tarriff Service, to evaluate the impact of the proposal on the economy and companies.
Russia is under pressure to bring down inflation and boost its stalling economic growth. However, analysts warned that the impact of the plan would be mixed. While a freeze in regulated prices would help bring down stubbornly-high inflation, it would also be negative for investors in major Russian companies and could reduce investment.
Medvedev gave the ministries until September 9 to draw up a new economic development forecast for the period 2014-2016 that incorporated maintaining tariffs for natural monopolies in 2014 at their 2013 levels, which the directive said was "being considered".
Russia uses the term natural monopolies to refer to regulated utility industries - primarily gas, electricity and railways.
Earlier on Friday, the Vedomosti newspaper said the proposal would impact prices charged by state-controlled gas concern Gazprom, Russian Railways, electricity holding Rosseti , as well as household heating and electricity prices.
NEGATIVE FOR INVESTMENT
The new head of the Russian central bank has cooled expectations of a cut in interest rates this month by warning policy would have to be tightened if the government did not show sufficient commitment to reducing inflation.
In comments reported by Russian news agencies on Friday, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said: "I absolutely agree with this proposal."
He said that by lowering state procurement prices, a freeze in regulated tariffs would make it easier for the government to implement spending cuts proposed by the Finance Ministry. But he added that it could also be negative for investment by natural monopolies.
Analysts at Uralsib said that a tariff freeze "would result in significant pressure on the financials of companies in the utilities sector, both for the distribution and generation segments."
Shares in some power- and gas-related companies fell more than the broader market in Moscow on Friday.
Sberbank CIB commented: "Should a freeze apply for only a year, it would not have significant repurcussions for long-term profitability, but could raise the risk premium that equity investors apply to Gazprom and (independent gas producer) Novatek."
Gazprom shares fell 1 percent.
The last time Russia froze all such tariff increases was in 1999, in the wake of the financial crisis of 1998.
A senior government official cited by Vedomosti said that by reducing inflation, the proposed tariff freeze would enable the central bank to stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates.
Russia recently revised down its economic growth rate forecast for 2013 to 1.8 percent, the lowest rate of growth since the economic slump of 2009. Inflation, however, remains high at 6.5 percent.
In a note, Bank of America Merril Lynch estimated that a tariff freeze would trim around one percentage point off inflation next year.
The government is likely to make a decision on the tariff freeze proposal by the end of this month, Vedomosti said.