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YUKOS Assets to Become German

by Dmit­ry Butrin and Denis Rebrov

Deutsche Bank is ready to redeem YUKOS’s debts to Gazprom’s ben­e­fit
YUKOS chair­man of board Vik­tor Gerashchenko told Kom­m­er­sant that Deutsche Bank is in talks about redeem­ing debts and buy­ing the con­trol­ling stock of YUKOS. If Deutsche Bank man­ages to car­ry this out, it will have in its hands the fate of the major cur­rent cor­po­ra­tion con­flict in Russia’s econ­o­my – that of Gazprom and Ros­neft.

Two inde­pen­dent sources in the invest­ment bank­ing sphere told Kom­m­er­sant last week that Deutsche Bank and its Russ­ian sub­sidiary Deutsche UFG are inter­est­ed in YUKOS assets. YUKOS chair­man of board Vik­tor Gerashchenko con­firmed the infor­ma­tion in his inter­view to Kom­m­er­sant yes­ter­day. He said that last week he received a let­ter signed by Ilya Shcher­bovich, head of the bank’s sub­sidiary in Rus­sia Deutsche UFG. The let­ter said that the bank is inter­est­ed in pur­chas­ing “YUKOS’s con­trol­ling stock” and “is ready to under­take” redeem­ing the company’s debts.

Deutsche Bank and Deutsche UFG refrained from giv­ing com­ments on Sun­day. YUKOS says noth­ing about the sit­u­a­tion either. Niko­lai Lashke­vich, spokesman for YUKOS bank­rupt­cy com­mis­sion­er Eduard Reb­gun, said the commissioner’s office does not know any­thing about the offer. How­ev­er, Kom­m­er­sant’s sources in invest­ment bank­ing say off-the-record that Deutsche UFG offered to pur­chase YUKOS assets back in ear­ly sum­mer 2006, but noth­ing was know about any spe­cif­ic steps to car­ry out this idea.

Vik­tor Gerashchenko said he does not know on whose behalf Deutsche Bank acts. “We sug­gest­ed they address Group MENATEP direc­tor Tim Osborne, and gave all his con­tacts to them. I do not know whether any talks were held. Yet, ami­ca­ble agree­ment is always pos­si­ble,” said Gerashchenko.

It is unlike­ly that Deutsche Bank acts on behalf of Ros­neft, YUKOS’s main cred­i­tor, and claimant #1 for con­trol­ling the company’s assets. Accord­ing to the list of YUKOS cred­i­tors as of Octo­ber 12, there are 37 cred­i­tors claim­ing debts of 586.6 bil­lion rubles. The major pri­vate cred­i­tors are Yugan­skneftegaz con­trolled by Ros­neft (109 bil­lion rubles), and Ros­neft itself (some 150 bil­lion rubles). The main state cred­i­tor is the Fed­er­al Tax Ser­vice. YUKOS owes 311.7 bil­lion to it. Thus, Ros­neft would hard­ly have been inter­est­ed in buy­ing out YUKOS’s debts via Deutsche Bank. YUKOS refrained from com­ments on Deutsche Bank’s atten­tion to the com­pa­ny.

Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov refused to dis­cuss Deutsche Bank’s ini­tia­tives with Kom­m­er­sant yes­ter­day. Yet, unlike Ros­neft, Gazprom seems to be the most like­ly client of Deutsche Bank in those talks. Gazprom chair­man Alex­ey Miller met with Deutsche Bank chair­man Josef Ack­er­mann on Octo­ber 9, unex­pect­ed­ly rais­ing the ques­tion of the advanced repay­ment of Gazprom’s cred­its attract­ed with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Deutsche Bank. It is com­mon prac­tice to restruc­ture the port­fo­lio before large deals. Besides, Miller and Ack­er­mann were dis­cussing the issues of financ­ing Gazprom’s acqui­si­tion deals.

Deutsche Bank has been Gazprom’s offi­cial strat­e­gy advi­sor since 2004. It con­sult­ed Gazprom in 2 major deals – when sell­ing 10.74 per­cent of the com­pa­ny to Ros­neftegaz, and as the author of the so-called fair­ness opin­ion when buy­ing Sib­neft. Deutsche Bank board mem­ber Tessen von Hey­de­breck, who is in Rus­sia now, will take part in the advi­so­ry coun­cil on for­eign invest­ment with Russ­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mikhail Frad­kov today.

Invest­ment ana­lysts say that both Gazprom and Ros­neft have rea­sons to buy YUKOS’s con­trol­ling stock and avoid the company’s sell-out by redeem­ing its debts. “The only 2 com­pa­nies which could have made this offer are Ros­neft and Gazprom,” said Moscow Bank ana­lyst Vladimir Vede­neev. “Ros­neft will have dif­fi­cul­ty digest­ing a deal like that, while for Gazprom this deal is not cru­cial. If, how­ev­er, YUKOS is sold out at an auc­tion, Rosneft’s posi­tion is bet­ter then.” At the same time, the expert believes the talks with Group MENATEP will hard­ly end suc­cess­ful­ly.

Thus, if Deutsche Bank does act on Gazprom’s behalf, it is in the mid­dle of the key con­flict in Russia’s econ­o­my of 2007 – the strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion between Gazprom and Ros­neft for oil assets in Rus­sia and the influ­ence in the top-brack­et of polit­i­cal pow­er.


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