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Buzz Barometer: Bashneft Seizure Media Response
November 3, 2014 13:04

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International business media and investors have been closely watching the court saga of the Bashneft/Yevtushenkov case in Moscow’s Commercial Court, providing ample comments on the latest decision to seize the stake in the prized asset and return it to the Russian state.
Bloomberg admitted the ruling itself was disastrous but focused on the positive outcome for AFK Sistema, one of the biggest domestic conglomerates.
“The market was relieved to hear that there are no further claims besides nationalizing Bashneft,” Renaissance Capital equity analyst Alex Kazbegi was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
According to the business outlet, “Sistema shares gained as much as 17 percent before the ruling, and closed up 12 percent at 15.55 rubles in Moscow, their biggest one-day gain since May 2009.
Reuters picked up the good piece of news, with more analysts breathing a sigh of relief:
"If confirmed, no additional demands would be a strong positive surprise for Sistema's shareholders, as the risk of the claims for return of the dividends was perceived as high prior to the hearing," Igor Goncharov, senior equity analyst at BCS Financial Group, wrote in a research note.
There’s, however, another issue that was raised by Yulia Bushueva, a managing director at asset manager Arbat Capital: "The key issue for the investment community now is whether the state would go after Sistema's prized asset, MTS, and whether Yevtushenkov can keep it," she said.
Reuters reminds the readers that “Russian mobile phone operator MTS and Bashneft are Sistema's biggest businesses and have been its main source of dividends.”
The Financial Times offer a deeper insight into the story, providing some background.
“The ruling risks becoming a fresh blow to Russia’s investment climate, raising concerns that the state may choose to seize back companies it once privatized,” runs its article.
“Mr Yevtushenkov has long been regarded as one of the most politically neutral and investor-friendly of Russia’s billionaires,” it says, adding a political dimension to the scandal. He “once enjoyed close ties with both President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev,” the FT author remarks.
And while Bloomberg points out the gain that AFK Sistema’s stock has made following the court decision, the FT reminds that the “stock has lost two-thirds of its value since Russian prosecutors first opened an investigation into Bashneft in July.
The Daily Mail cites the letter by AFK Sistema which warns of “a significant negative impact on Sistema's investment strategy, financial condition and financial obligations” of the ruling.
Earlier, Russia-IC reported that the Commercial Court of Moscow has ruled to return Bashneft’s stocks owned by Russia’s largest publicly traded holding Sistema to the state.
It satisfied the request of the prosecutors who insisted that the privatization deal had been fraught with violations.
Sistema purchased Bashneft from the son of Bashkortostan’s former leader. According to the police, that son privatized the assets illegally and laundered the funds by selling this major oil company to Yevtushenkov’s Sistema at what they claim was a lower price.
According to the corporate press release, “Sistema's management believes that the acquisition of BashTEK group was legal and transparent. The company is fully cooperating with the investigation and intends to use all legal means to defend its position.”
Rumours around the detention include Rosneft’s push to buy Bashneft at a cheap price to ramp up its production capabilities amid sanctions limiting Igor Sechin’s plans to develop offshore fields.

Rosneft, and its CEO Igor Sechin personally, strongly rejected the allegations but many still compare the Yevtushenkov case with the trial of another Russian oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: Bashneft Buzz Barometer    

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