MOSCOW, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is prepared to sell up to 25 percent of state-owned potash miner Belaruskali, he said on Tuesday, paving the way for a new round of consolidation in the industry.
Lukashenko did not say how much money the cash-starved former Soviet Republic hoped to raise via the sale. "We've said we won't sell more than 25 percent. We've named a price, which is rising today," he said.
A government official last June said Belarus wanted to raise up to $7 billion from the sale of a minority stake in Belaruskali and the latest announcement shows Minsk is eager to cash in as potash prices resume their upward trend.
Belaruskali and Russia's Uralkali (URKA.MM: Quote) sell their output via the Belarusian Potash Co (BPC) joint venture, which controls more than 30 percent of global exports.
BPC last week inked a deal to sell 600,000 tonnes of potash to China for $400 per tonne, a 14 percent year-on-year increase according to analysts. [ID:nLDE70C1BY]
Spot potash prices, which soared above $1,000 per tonne before the 2008 downturn, are currently at $430 per tonne including cost and freight (CFR).
China, the world's largest fertiliser consumer, is considered by some analysts to be a likely buyer for the stake since its demand for potash far outstrips local production capacity.
Elsewhere in the sector, Uralkali is in the midst of a merger with rival Russian firm Silvinit (SILV.MM: Quote) while BHP Billiton (BLT.L: Quote) (BHP.AX: Quote) in November scrapped a hostile $39 billion bid for Canada's Potash Corp (POT.TO: Quote), leaving it free to pursue other targets. (Reporting by Andrey Makhovsky; Writing by Alfred Kueppers; Editing by David Holmes)