Gorky studio sale delayed

Spokesman says higher price to be sought at later date

LONDON — The Russian State Property Fund’s privatization of Gorky Film Studio, set for Wednesday, has been postponed for a second time.

The first attempt to auction a stake of 75% minus one share in the studio was due Feb. 16 but was put off for a month.

Studio director Stanislav Yershov said he did not know the reasons for the delay, but a fund spokesman said it was hoped the studio would fetch a higher price at a later date.

The starting price for the shares — which left 25% plus one share stake in state hands — was set at 123 million rubles (around $4.5 million).

“In the opinion of our experts, the price of the packet of shares could be much higher, as is proved by the fact that there were a lot of people interested,” the spokesman added.

Given that the auction was scheduled to be conducted with open, rather than envelope, bidding, the authority’s reason for delaying it seems confusing. No further news on when — or if — the studio will be privatized was available.

The Gorky sale was meant to be a pioneering step in moving often money-losing state film assets into private hands.

St. Petersburg’s Lenfilm Studio and other smaller regional outfits are due to come under the hammer. But Russian giant Mosfilm is resisting the change.

Any Gorky privatization would separate the studio’s pre-1991 film archive, set to remain in state hands, from the studio itself, which has undergone extensive renovation and upgrading.

There has been foreign interest in the Gorky auction on the assumption that the process would be transparent. No restriction on foreign ownership, albeit through a local partner company, appears to exist.

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