UK plans privatisation to help cut debt - report

(Reuters) - As many as half of the 21 companies that the British government holds shares in could be wholly or partly privatised within five to eight years, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing Mark Russel who heads the Shareholder Executive.

The British coalition government is increasingly focused on privatisations as a means to shed debt and avoid the need for more spending cuts, the Financial Times reported.

The Shareholder Executive manages the British government's stakes in over 20 businesses. The Financial Times said Russell is in charge of the expected upcoming sell-offs of Royal Mail Group Ltd <GBPO.UL> and the UK's stake in Urenco, the world's second biggest producer of nuclear fuel.

The Financial Times said the UK intended to raise about 3 billion pounds before the end of 2013 from the sale of its one-third stake in Urenco, jointly owned with the Dutch government and German utilities RWE AG <RWEG.DE> and EO.N SE<EONGn.DE>.

Britain's state-owned Royal Mail is expected to float its shares as early as the third quarter of 2013, although the company's Chief Executive Moya Greene told Reuters in March that the first quarter of 2014 was more likely.

(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bangalore; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)