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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Says Government Would Save GAZ

BloombergDeputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov gesturing during an interview in his government office in Moscow on Tuesday.��
GAZ, billionaire Oleg Deripaska's vehicle maker, is too big to fail, and the government will step in to prevent it from falling into bankruptcy, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview.

"We don't want to nationalize anything except when it's unavoidable," Ivanov said. "It's the last resort."

Ivanov said "half of the city" of Nizhny Novgorod, about 400 kilometers east of Moscow, works for GAZ. "We cannot be ignorant of this fact, and we are interested to help the people, to fight unemployment."

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said last week that the state would not bail out all companies that it deems systemically important to the economy, and some may go bankrupt. The government plans to support GAZ, carmaker AvtoVAZ and Rosatom, the state's nuclear holding company. There are no plans to capitalize Deripaska's United Company RusAl, he said.

The government last week approved a 1.6 trillion ruble ($47.6 billion) anti-crisis program as part of a revised budget that contains a 2.98 trillion ruble deficit, or 7.4 percent of planned gross domestic product.

Ivanov reiterated the government's policy that companies with state involvement will not be allowed to fail, while support for private companies will be selective.

"As for the shares and the value of the company, if it's a private company, only the market will decide," he said.

In its anti-crisis plan, the government outlined measures to support companies whose failure would have a significant knock-on effect, including vehicle makers and home builders, as well as strategic sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, wood processing, the defense industry, transportation and power production.

In addition to GAZ, Ivanov said some privately owned coal and metals companies were too big to fail "because they are simply huge." State support for such companies is also necessary because Russia will need "a huge amount of metal and coal" when the economy begins to recover.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Friday that Russia was "at or close to the bottom" of its economic decline and that growth could return by the end of the year.

While the government will step in to help some private companies, it will focus on supporting workers, Ivanov said.

"We try to help, but mainly from the social angle," he said. "If it comes to bailing out, many people will say, 'Why are we helping the private sector? It's not our fault.' And partly they are right. But the social part of it is always the government's duty."

Troika Dialog withdrew its rating for GAZ earlier this month, citing possible bankruptcy. The vehicle maker "is now experiencing its worst liquidity crunch in over a decade, which could result in its insolvency," analysts Gennady Sukhanov and Mikhail Ganelin said in a note to investors.

The car and truck maker has $1.24 billion in mainly short-term debt and should cut investment to zero and sell its stakes in Britain's LDV Group and Italy's VM Motori to meet its obligations, Troika said.

GAZ defaulted on its ruble bonds and is currently in talks with lenders and bondholders on extending the maturity of its debt by five years, according to the analysts.

GAZ presented a plan to creditor Sberbank that includes a 35 percent cut in spending, Sberbank chief executive German Gref said, RIA-Novosti reported last week.

Sberbank, VTB Group and Vneshekonombank hold 30 percent of GAZ's debt. Sberbank has agreed to restructure its portion of the debt and is ready to try to persuade the other banks, Gref said, the news service reported.