Alexa

Production unit of bankrupt Yukos oil company to go on auction block

Production unit of bankrupt Yukos oil company to go on auction block

A Siberian oil producer owned by Yukos will go on the auction block Thursday, part of the liquidation of the bankrupt company that has boosted the state's presence in world's biggest energy industry.
The sale of Tomskneft, which produces about 233,000 barrels of oil per day, is expected to further strengthen the government's hand as state-controlled energy companies have been the biggest beneficiaries of the auctions, which began in March.
Regardless of who wins the bidding, Tomskneft will ultimately be acquired by gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, the business daily Vedomosti reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources close to Gazprom and the auction organizers.
Two refineries that are among the other assets in the same lot will go to state-controlled oil company OAO Rosneft, which has a sore need for refining capacity, the paper said.
Rosneft spokesman Nikolai Manvelov confirmed that the company would participate in Thursday's auction through its Neft-Aktiv subsidiary.
A person close to the organizers who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record said that another company, Yuniteks, would also be bidding. Russian media have previously linked Yuniteks to Gazprom. Officials at the gas monopoly and its oil unit Gazprom Neft declined to comment.
Kremlin critics say that the back-tax claims against OAO Yukos _ once Russia's biggest oil producer _ are aimed at transferring energy assets to government-friendly companies, and call the jailing of its former owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky a calculated step to neuter a potential challenger to President Vladimir Putin.
Yukos will largely disappear after its last production unit, refineries and its network of green-and-yellow filling stations go under the hammer on May 10.
In the first auction, Rosneft gathered up a chunk of its own shares for 10 percent below their market value; in early April Italian companies Eni SpA and Enel SpA won the bidding for a bundle of gas assets and promptly announced that they would sell the bulk of them on to state-controlled Gazprom.
Gazprom Neft's production capacity would increase by one-third if it were to acquire Tomskneft, said Oleg Maximov, an analyst with investment bank Troika Dialog.
Maximov, who values Tomskneft at US$3.5 billion (euro2.6 billion) and the refineries at nearly US$2 billion (euro1.5 billion), said that the auction's start price of US$6.4 billion (euro4.7 billion) was "a good, high price."
Critics argue that the Kremlin artificially manufactured some US$28 billion (euro21 billion) in back tax claims against Yukos, leading to the acquisition of the company's key oil-producing unit by Rosneft after a disputed auction in 2004, and eventually to Yukos' bankruptcy in 2006. At its height in 2004 the campaign battered investor confidence in Russia; foreign funds lost billions as the company's value evaporated.
But investors quickly forgot their jitters as surging oil prices continued to boost the nation's finances. Foreign oil companies are clamoring to do deals with Rosneft and Gazprom, who are viewed as the state's gatekeepers to Russia's energy riches.
Meanwhile, Khodorkovsky's eight-year prison sentence has drawn few tears from the Russian public. Many see him as a robber baron who made billions in the economic chaos of the 1990s, while others saw their life savings vanish.
Apparently playing to that sentiment, Putin called in his state of the nation address last week for the proceeds raised from the sale of Yukos to be used to pay a part of a US$25 billion (euro18 billion) program to build houses, roads and other infrastructure projects. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has said that the budget will receive about US$15 billion (euro11 billion) from the auctions this year.


Updated : 2021-04-14 07:49 GMT+08:00