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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Prana Is Cleared as Buyer of Yukos Office, Trading Firms

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - Moscow Times, Bloomberg, Reuters - The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said Monday that it had approved the $3.9 billion sale of Yukos' headquarters and trading firms earlier this month to mystery firm Prana. The service said last week that it would investigate the firm through Aug. 2 amid concerns over its obscure ownership structure. Earlier attempts to contact the firm through the address it provided had failed. In a statement, the anti-monopoly service gave no reason for its turnaround, saying only that the decision was prompted by information provided by the company Friday. "They asked not to disclose who they are," a service official said. The service had threatened to block the deal if it failed to obtain more information about the winners. Speculation has been rife as to who lies behind Prana. In the May 13 auction, the lot included Yukos' office building in central Moscow and a trading firm believed to be sitting on up to $3 billion in cash. Prana battled a Rosneft subsidiary for three hours in the most competitive of the Yukos bankruptcy auctions, paying more than four times the starting price. Unitex, another bidder for Yukos assets, bought the firm's gas stations in Moscow on Monday after gaining antitrust clearance last week, Nikolai Lashkevich, spokesman for Yukos' bankruptcy manager, said in a statement Monday. Unitex beat TNK-BP and Shell with a bid of $483 million at the May 2 sale. Rosneft dropped out before the bidding started. Market sources have said Gazprom could have been behind both firms in the latest auctions, but Gazprom has denied any link to either Prana or Unitex. Representatives from Unitex and Prana declined to comment after the auctions. Yukos' bankruptcy manager, Eduard Rebgun, has raised more than $31.5 billion selling Yukos' assets.

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