ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) -- The Kazakh government has become a major stake-holder in the mineral-rich country's two biggest metal companies after a share swap deal, the Prime Minister's office said Tuesday.
The government exchanged a 7.7-percent stake in European Natural Resources Corporation for 15 percent of the shares in Kazakhmys Plc, the announcement said. The government retains 11.7 percent of ENRC's shares.
Kazakhstan has said it wishes to see the two companies develop as strong and independent metal producers, but Tuesday's move indicates it seeking a greater role in managing the country's mineral resources.
Acquisition of shares in Kazakhmys will intensify the government's role in the metals sector and allow it to diversify its mining portfolio, the government said in a statement.
But analysts said Kazakhstan is unlikely to follow the government of neighboring Russia and seize control over swathes of the resource sector.
''Kazakhstan is and will always be more open to foreign investment than its northern neighbor. It is just going from a point of very little control of the resource sector to increased control,'' said Michael Carter, head of research at Almaty-based Visor Capital investment bank. He said the level of state control in Kazakhstan is ''still relatively mild'' compared to many countries.
The announcement is also an apparent reversal of fate for Kazakhmys, which was being targeted for possible acquisition by ENRC. A US$13.8 billion (euro8.74 billion) takeover offer last month was turned down by Kazakhmys.
Kazakhmys now owns a 22.2 percent stake in ENRC, making it the largest shareholder in the company. It said it has no plans to make a bid to buy all of ENRC.
Kazakhmys, controlled by former communist party official Vladimir Kim, had revenues of $5.3 billion (euro3.4 billion) and $1.4 billion (euro900 million) in net income last year, according to a company report.