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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aeroflot to Buy Back Lebedev’s 25.8%

The government is planning to tighten its grip on flagship airline Aeroflot by taking control of a 25.8 percent stake owned by Alexander Lebedev, ridding the carrier of a major independent shareholder.

Aeroflot said Wednesday that it could strike a deal with Lebedev to buy his stake. The tycoon has repeatedly criticized the firm's management for the lack of cost control measures and insisted on buying and leasing more foreign planes.

Lebedev's stake could be then used to pay the government for new, as yet unidentified, aviation assets to be merged with Aeroflot — Russia's biggest airline.

The move would increase government ownership of Aeroflot to about 75 percent and might give more incentives to the state to bring aviation assets — spun off from Aeroflot after the collapse of the Soviet Union — back under its control.

A spokesman for Lebedev, who owns London's Evening Standard newspaper, said he would sell his stake at a discount price of $400 million, compared to a market value based on Tuesday's closing share price of $490 million.

The departure of Lebedev would be the latest move in a shake-up of Russia's aviation industry.

State-controlled conglomerate Russian Technologies has set up Rosavia to mop up several regional carriers crippled by the financial crisis.

The new company, yet to launch flights, could become a rival to Aeroflot, although there has also been speculation the two groups could merge.