The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) said Saturday it hoped to begin selling off from early next year government shareholdings in 19 local firms worth an estimated 2.69 billion dollars.
"We have decided to sell off all our holdings in local firms," KIA managing director Saleh Mubarak al-Falah told AFP on the sidelines of a symposium on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE). "The program is expected to begin early next year if circumstances are appropriate."
KIA, the Kuwaiti government's investment arm that manages assets worth some 60 billion dollars mostly outside the emirate, sold stocks in local firms worth more than 3 billion dollars between 1994 and 1997.
It suspended the program -- slated as the start of the emirate's privatization efforts -- in early 1998 after share prices on the KSE crashed to less than half of their value in November 1997.
"We suspended the program for reevaluation after supply far exceeded demand," said Falah, former chairman of the Bank of Kuwait and the Middle East. "We did that to help stop the slide in stock prices.
"We will evaluate the situation in KSE and see if more shares can be pumped into the market. We don't want to declare a time-frame for the process but the sale may be completed in one year," he said.
Al-Shall Economic Consultants estimated that the government has stakes ranging between 5.3 and 87.7 percent in 19 listed Kuwaiti firms. It said the value of that is 2.69 billion dollars, or 12.9 percent of the KSE's total market capitalization.
Falah said KIA will use the funds to contribute to the establishment of investment funds and portfolios to provide cash for the sagging bourse, the second largest Arab stock market in terms of capitalization -- KUWAIT CITY (AFP)
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