MOSCOW — Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, plans to start a depositary receipt program in New York and London this year to attract foreign investors and prepare for a possible share sale, according to the carrier’s head.
‘‘We are seeing fairly substantial interest from foreign investors in emerging markets in general and in the transport sector in particular,’’ chief executive Vitaly Savelyev said. Long-term funds based in the British and American financial capitals are especially keen, he said.
Aeroflot, which already trades general depositary receipts in Frankfurt, will change the ratio for the number of shares per GDR to 5 to 1 in order to boost its liquidity, while commencing its first American Depositary Receipt program.
The Russian government may sell Aeroflot shares this year as part of a plan to raise $13.5 billion through state asset sales to help balance the budget and reduce its role in the economy. The airline’s management has called for a delay until it consolidates regional carriers acquired in 2011, and its value increases. The government in June proposed exiting its full controlling stake by 2016.
Aeroflot aims to get the go ahead to trade over the counter in London and New York this year, Savelyev said.
Russia may offer investors about 1.5 percent of Aeroflot as early as this year and will discuss the sale of a bigger stake, state property agency head Olga Dergunova said last week.
‘‘Market conditions should be taken into account before privatization,’’ Savelyev said. ‘‘Unfortunately, the trend now is negative. Share prices, including our stock, are falling as a result of the global and European crises.’’
The company’s shares are as much as 40 percent undervalued, the CEO said, citing analyst estimates. Aeroflot has fallen 50 percent from a peak in February 2008.
The fact Aeroflot operates across a territory as large and populous as Russia means the government probably won’t sell out even if its share price gains, the CEO said. ‘‘If market conditions are good, the state may sell a blocking stake,’’ he said, suggesting that a holding of 25 percent plus one share could be retained. ‘‘The picture will become clearer by 2016.’’
Aeroflot, which carried more than 120 million people a year in the 1980s, was left with international routes after the Soviet Union collapsed, and together with its subsidiaries attracted 27.5 million passengers in 2012.