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Gazprom Neft grabs slice of Sibir

Financial Times

By Catherine Belton in Moscow

Published: April 24 2009 03:00 | Last updated: April 24 2009 03:00

Gazprom Neft, the Russian state-controlled oil major, yesterday scooped up a stake of more than 16 per cent in Sibir Energy, the UK-listed Russian energy group.

Its 500p a share offer caused TNK-BP, BP’s Russian oil venture, to pull out of a bidding war.

Renaissance Capital, the Moscow investment bank, said Gazprom NeftGazprom is expected to hold a 16 per cent stake in Sibir after it closed its invitation to buy the group’s outstanding shares, which have been suspended since mid-February, on behalf of the oil group.

The sale puts Gazprom Neft – in which Gazprom is the major shareholder – in the driving seat for a potential takeover of the mid-sized oil producer, which has been hit by corporate governance concerns involving Chalva Tchigirinsky, its main shareholder.

The size of its stake is likely to be big enough to see off any potential rival bidders. Sibir had a free float of 35 per cent. Rosneft, Gazprom Neft’s state-controlled rival, had been tipped as another potential bidder.

Alexander Dyukov, Gaz-prom Neft chief executive, said it was “pleased to have become a significant minority shareholder in a company we regard as a world-class asset”. It was unclear yesterday whether Gazprom Neft would seek to buy out Sibir’s main shareholders.

Sibir said it had not received any approach from Gazprom Neft. It already has a working partnership with Gazprom Neft via its joint venture in Moscow’s main oil refinery.

Analysts had said from the start that a state-controlled energy major could gain an edge over privately-owned TNK-BP, which cancelled its bookbuild offering of 430p a share after Renaissance announced the 500p offer.

A takeover by Gazprom Neft could lead to the first move to consolidate the Russian oil industry as a result of the economic crisis.

Mr Tchigirinsky, who owns a 23.5 per cent stake in Sibir, was hit hard by margin calls last autumn as stock markets plummeted, leaving both his stake and a 23 per cent holding in Sibir belonging to his business partner Igor Kesayev, pledged to Sberbank, a Russian state bank, for loans.

Sibir’s shares were suspended in February after the company revealed it had lent $325m to Mr Tchigirinsky – $210m more than it had previously acknowledged. The company has launched a high court action against Mr Tchigirinsky and Henry Cameron, Sibir’s former chief executive.

Sibir also owns a 50 per cent stake in a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell to develop one of Russia’s most promising fields, Salym, where production hit 80,000 barrels a day in January.

The Moscow city government owns an 18 per cent stake in Sibir.

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