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Mongolia privatization open to int'l investment

Mongolia's plan to privatize its state-owned assets will allow international investors access to some of the world's largest untapped mineral resources through initial public share sales, most likely in Hong Kong.

Dulam Sugar, chairman of the Government of Mongolia's State Property Committee, said even though the procedure of equity listings hasn't been confirmed, the Mongolian government has decided to sell shares in both local and international stock markets.

Sugar named Erdenet Mining Corp., a Mongolian-Russian copper producer joint venture, the Tavan Tolgoi coking coal deposit and the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine as the nation's biggest state-owned assets to be privatized. Uranium companies may also be privatized.

“Mongolia doesn't have anybody who has offered shares in international markets yet, that's why we are very cautious,” Sugar said Tuesday in an interview in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. “We are asking international investors to invest now, particularly those from Hong Kong.”

The Mongolian government is in the process of identifying state-owned enterprises to be privatized, the chairman said. McKinsey & Co. is advising the government, which expects final results in one month, he said.

Mongolia, a landlocked country sandwiched between China and Russia, is betting on overseas capital markets as its primary source of fundraising over its less liquid domestic market. The government is striving to boost living standards in the nation of about 2.7 million people, where average per capita income is about US$2,000 a year.

Erdenet, established by the governments of Mongolia and the former Soviet Union, started operations in 1978, according to the company's Web site. The company produces more than 530,000 tons of copper concentrate and 3,000 tons of molybdenum concentrates. It also processes 25 million tons of ore per year, its website shows.

Tavan Tolgoi holds about 6 billion metric tons of coal in the deserts of southern Mongolia, making it one of the world's largest unexploited reserves of the fuel. While it is 100 percent government-owned, Mongolia plans to control part of the deposit by a state-run enterprise, with a second tranche to be operated by a group of foreign and domestic companies, Sugar said.

Rio Tinto Group and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. are developing Oyu Tolgoi, which London-based Rio has called the world's largest copper resource. It may operate for as long as 30 years and generate between US$30 billion and US$50 billion in revenue, Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj said in September.

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