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Transport Minister Jiro Kawasaki indicated Friday that the government plans to sell its remaining shares of East Japan Railway Co. by the end of the year, if circumstances allow such a move.

“The basic idea of selling the shares within this year remain unchanged,” said Kawasaki, adding that the plan is to sell all of the shares at the same time.

Japan Railway Construction Public Corp. currently owns 1.5 million shares of JR East, which went public in 1993. Out of 4 million shares of the Tokyo-based carrier, 2.5 million shares have already been put on the market. JR East and other JR group companies hope the government will release their shares in them to the market as soon as possible.

Although the government earlier considered selling JR East shares by the end of fiscal 1998 ending in March, it virtually gave up the idea due to the stagnant stock market. Out of the JR group companies, JR East, Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. are publicly listed.

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