Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Kremlin lifts bar on Russneft trade
2 December 2008 - Upstream OnLine - The Russian authorities have unfrozen trade in Russneft shares, opening the way for Russia's richest man, Oleg Deripaska, to finalise a long-delayed deal to take control of the mid-sized oil producer. 2 December 2008 - Upstream OnLine - Russneft's previous owner, billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, fled to the UK in August last year and sold a majority stake in the company to Deripaska for more than $3 billion, excluding debts. However, Russia's anti-monopoly watchdog has yet to approve the deal. When contacted by Reuters, the watchdog could not say when the approval should be expected. Russian media has reported Deripaska's stake in Russneft will be more than 51%, while a source close to the negotiations told Reuters he was seeking 75%. Meanwhile, authorities had frozen Russneft's shares after criminal and tax cases were brought against the company. On 26 November, an investigator at the Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee unfroze the shares, an official at the committee, Irina Dudukina, told Reuters. "The criminal case against Mikhail Gutseriyev accused of illegal entrepreneurship has been put on hold until we find him," Dudukina said. Russneft said in its last report that six offshore companies still control it. Earlier in October, Russia's tax service dropped the last case accusing Russneft of selling its shares illegally. The shares will remain unfrozen from now on, a source close to Russneft's minority shareholders told Reuters. Separately, Russneft will repay its 7 billion rouble ($249.9 million) bond on 10 Decmber, another source close to the company said. Reuters Data said the bond would carry a yield of more than 600%. Russneft's credit worthiness has been under question as oil prices have plunged 70% from their peaks in the summer and the global financial crisis dried up credit markets. "We are ready to do it in any case," the source said of repaying the bond. Russneft is awaiting part of a tax-back owed to it by the tax service, he said, adding "the money likely to come today would be useful but it is not critical" for the company's readiness to meet creditors' demands.