Belarus wants to attract investors to banking sector - minister

ZAGREB, May 14 (Reuters) - Belarus is ready to create conditions to attract foreign investors to the banking, agricultural and infrastructure sectors, Economy Minister Economy Minister Nikolai Snopkov said on Friday.

The comments by the minister, who took office in December, come as the country is intensifying efforts to attract private capital to help ease a budget deficit that is projected to reach $900 million this year.

"We can create supportive conditions for investment," Snopkov said during a presentation at the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. "Yes, still with some bureaucracy, but I hope this would be solved with time."

The government is creating a national privatisation agency that would help speed up the sale of some state assets.

Belarus, sandwiched between the European Union and Russia, remains one of the least reformed countries of the pre-1990 eastern bloc.

Its gross domestic product grew by 0.2 percent last year, after five years of around 10 percent growth.

The government hopes to raise about $1 billion in privatisation this year -- a similar amount to 2009 -- and is looking to the West for money.

Among some of the top companies slated for privatisation in the first take this year is Bellinvestbank, in which the government owns a 95.01 stake.

"We're ready to sell the whole stake," Taras Nadolny, deputy head of international operations at the National Bank of Belarus, said.

Bellinvestbank, which with 1.2 billion euros in assets as of Jan. 1 ranked as the country's fourth-largest bank, had a net profit of $30 million last year, Alexander Rutkovsky, the bank's chairman said.

He said the government would like to sell the bank to one of Europe's 30 top banks.

"We're not looking at Russian banks," Rutkovsky said.

Last year, the government managed only one large privatisation, selling BPS Bank to Russia's biggest lender, Sberbank, for slightly more than $280 million.

(Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Susan Fenton)


Partners: Social Network