The state-controlled oil company Rosneft has acquired the unknown front company that won a controversial auction in recent days for a major Russian oil-production unit, news agencies...
MOSCOW — The state-controlled oil company Rosneft has acquired the unknown front company that won a controversial auction in recent days for a major Russian oil-production unit, news agencies reported yesterday. The move effectively nationalizes one of Russia’s largest such units.
Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies confirmed what many analysts suspected: Shares in Yuganskneftegaz, a subsidiary of the embattled Yukos oil company, have been taken by the state and eventually will be routed to Gazprom, the huge state-controlled natural-gas and oil conglomerate.
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Yuganskneftegaz pumps nearly 1 million barrels of oil a day. The unit was among those state-owned assets privatized in the 1990s in Russia’s effort to build a free-market economy following the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the time, many of the assets were acquired by young financiers for a fraction of their value.
According to the news-agency reports, Rosneft yesterday bought all of the shares in BaikalFinansGroup, a previously unknown company. Baikal bought the oil-production unit at a government auction Sunday for $9.3 billion. Outsiders had estimated the oil-production unit was worth far more.
The unit was being sold for what the government claims are $28 billion in back taxes owed by Yukos. Yukos has denied owing the back taxes.
Yukos has been under attack from the Kremlin for more than a year in what some analysts have described as retaliation for the political ambitions of its former chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He is in jail and on trial on charges of fraud and tax evasion.
The government already has plans to fold Rosneft into Gazprom, a combination that will create Russia’s largest energy conglomerate when combined with the Yukos asset. The Yuganskneftegaz fields in western Siberia accounted for 60 percent of Yukos’ production and are about 11 percent of Russia’s overall oil output.
Last week, Yukos sought bankruptcy protection in the United States to prevent the auction. A judge in Houston had granted the company a temporary injunction preventing Gazprom from bidding at last Sunday’s government-held auction.
Gazprom declined to bid at the last minute, but the Baikal group was regarded by many analysts as a place-holder for the company.