Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg has expressed an interest in acquiring half the Russian government's 51.17% majority shareholding in Aeroflot (SU, Moscow Sheremetyevo) informed sources have told The Telegraph newspaper.

Billionaire Rotenberg, who is a key ally of President Vladimir Putin and co-owner of the SGM engineering firm, has officially rejected the claims.

Rotenburg has already begun his move into the Russian transport sector as in February, the government transferred a 68% stake in Moscow Sheremetyevo airport to TPS Avia, a company jointly owned by Rotenberg. The transfer was done on condition the firm invest USD840 million to upgrade and expand the airport's lagging infrastructure.

Another investor reportedly keen on investing in Aeroflot is the state-owned civil and defence manufacturer Rostec which already owns a 2% stake in the carrier. However, according to the report, Aeroflot CEO Vitaly Saveliev has opposed allowing either Rostec or Rotenberg any material influence over the carrier, as he is keen to press on with efforts to modernise and increase its efficiency.

Moscow unveiled plans to privatize a number of government-owned entities in a bid to raise over RUB1 trillion (USD12.8 billion) in much needed cash. At the time, Vladimir Putin said the disposals would not be done at "bargain basement prices" and that any prospective investors would have to be based in Russia.