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Kazakhstan to sell stakes in nationalized banks

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) -- Kazakhstan's president has ordered the government to sell off its holdings in several major domestic banks partially nationalized during the global financial crisis.

Nursultan Nazarbayev said at a government meeting Monday that BTA Bank, Alliance Bank and Temirbank should be privatized by the end of the year.

The Central Asian nation was heavily exposed to the global credit crunch in 2008, leading the government to rescue and take stakes in BTA Bank and Alliance Bank in 2009.

Umirzak Shukeyev, chairman of the Samruk-Kazyna state sovereign fund, says external debt at the hardest-hit lender, BTA Bank, has been reduced to $750 million from $9 billion.

Analysts say conditions for banking have improved in oil-rich Kazakhstan since the crisis in 2008, but that some weaknesses still remain.