Russian oil CEO backs call for Moscow to privatize oil companies

  • Lukoil's chief executive said he supported the call from Russia's former finance minister to privatize Moscow's state-owned oil companies.
  • The Kremlin's press secretary reportedly said the Russian government had no plans to privatize the country's oil sector.

The chief executive of Russia's second largest crude oil producer told CNBC on Thursday that he fully supported calls from the Kremlin's former finance minister to privatize the country's oil companies.

"You know that I was ideologically behind the privatization of the Russian oil industry, so I have always supported this trend," Vagit Alekperov, chief executive of Lukoil, said via a translator on Thursday.

While speaking to CNBC at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Alekperov pointed out that Russia's privatization of oil companies had started over 20 years ago and stressed he expected the process would "continue further".

Russia's state news agency, TASS, previously reported the country's former Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, had urged President Vladimir Putin to consider transforming state-owned oil companies into private firms in order to boost ailing economic growth.

Oil sector should be 'fully privatized' by 2025

Kudrin, widely credited for helping Moscow reach record results during the first half of the Putin era, had been tasked by the long-time Russian premier to draft an economic program from 2018 to 2024. Incidentally, this happens to be the same timeframe for Russia's next presidential term.

"The oil sector should be fully privatized in the next seven to eight years, no state companies are required there now as the statehood brings more harm than benefit to those companies," Kudrin, was reported by TASS as saying Thursday.

Despite the calls for Russia to privatize its oil sector and the subsequent backing from the CEO of a Moscow-based oil giant, Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, had said the government currently has no plans to do so.

"This is Kudrin's well-known expert point of view, he defends it reasonably enough. There are other opinions as well. However, as far as I know, the government has no such plans yet," TASS reported Peskov as saying on Thursday.

Russia emerged from a two-year recession at the end of 2016 yet economic growth remains relatively anemic and continues to languish significantly below the 3 percent target set by its government. Its economy grew 0.5 percent in the first quarter year-on-year, Reuters reported in May, citing data from the Federal Statistics Service.