Russia's central bank on Monday announced plans to go ahead with the long-delayed auction of a 7.58-percent stake in main lender Sberbank following a recent improvement in market conditions.
The Bank of Russia said the sell-off would leave the state holding a 50-percent stake plus one voting share in the country's main financial institution.
The auction comes in the midst of a three-year $40-billion privatisation programme designed to kick-start the economy after the marked slowdown that followed the 2008 global financial crisis.
A bank statement said the stake would be auctioned off in both dollars as global depository shares (GDS) on the London Stock Exchange and rubles as ordinary shares appearing on Moscow's MICEX exchange.
The bidding process was expected to close on Wednesday.
"The offerings represent an opportunity for us to further diversify Sberbank's investor base and secure an international stock exchange listing," said Sberbank chief executive German Gref.
"We view this as a critical step in our broader plan to reinforce Sberbank's position as the leading Russian financial institution, and transform it into one of the world's top performing banks in terms of profitability, operational efficiency and service quality."
The modern version of the venerable tsarist-era bank was founded in 1990 and now plays a pivotal role in the Russian economy while also being one of its most heavily-traded stocks.
Sberbank provides emergency credits to other lenders and holds nearly half of the country's savings. It also issues about a third of its loans.
The bank said it would issue the ordinary shares in Moscow at the initial price of 91 rubles ($2.98) and set the final value at the market rate.
The entire placement is currently worth about $5.4 billion after being valued at $7 billion before a cancellation of a government auction scheduled for September 2011.
Monday's announcement marks an important victory for President Vladimir Putin as he pushes ahead with privatisation despite headwinds from a tumultuous European economy and uncertainty about the Russian market abroad.
The massive sell-off drive -- the largest since the 1990s -- was initially intended to help cover the vast expense of a new spending programme the government had planned for Putin's historic third term.
But the strongman leader's formal return in May was marked by continued wobbles in Europe and massive outflows of Western investor capital from Russia that are estimated at billions of dollars per month.
Investor fears about Russia tend to dissipate with improvements in global sentiment and the government now appears to be betting that recent European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve action will spur the markets in the months to come.
Some analysts predicted the gamble to pay off big for the government as Western investors seek profit in an emerging market that has underperformed its rivals in recent years because of political and bureaucratic risks.
"We believe that the central bank's offering is well timed, both because of market strength and because of expected pressure on sector and Sberbank profitability," Moscow's Alfa Bank said in a research note.
Russia had earlier planned to raise some $10 billion this year and bring sales up to $15 billion by 2014 with the partial auction of such huge holdings as the Rosneft oil company and the country's number two lender VTB.