OAO Rosneft, Russia’s biggest crude producer, asked President-elect Vladimir Putin to sell it 25 percent of the country’s largest port operator in a letter co- signed by OAO Transneft, the state-run oil pipeline operator.
Rosneft’s ownership of a blocking stake in OAO Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port would protect Russia’s strategic interests, according to a copy of the letter signed by Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Eduard Khudainatov and Transneft CEO Nikolay Tokarev and obtained by Bloomberg News. The letter was confirmed by three people familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because the information wasn’t public.
Transneft and businessman Ziyavudin Magomedov’s Summa Group have joint control of 50.1 percent of the port operator, which runs Russia’s biggest oil-export terminals in Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and in Primorsk on the Baltic Sea.
“This could be the sign of a corporate conflict,” Alexei Astapov, an analyst at OAO Gazprombank, said by phone. “Summa has operational control, but if Rosneft and Transneft join forces, Summa could become an average minority shareholder.”
The letter asks the Russian government to sell its 20 percent stake in the port as well as a 5 percent stake controlled by state-owned OAO Russian Railways.
“This issue is being throughly examined,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said by telephone today.
Summa is interested in acquiring full control of the Novorossiysk group, according to the letter.
“We are interested in acquiring the state’s stake,” Summa President Alexander Vinokurov said today by e-mail. “Our decision will based on the price, and we don’t plan on buying the stake at any price.”
The move contradicts the government’s position on selling state assets, Vinokurov said. Summa’s relationship with Transneft is contructive, he said.
“The state’s interests are more than adequately protected with its ‘golden share,’ which allows it to participate in all key decisions at Novorossiysk,” Vinokurov said.
Russia plans to raise 300 billion rubles ($10.1 billion) this year by selling stakes in state companies, including 15 percent of Rosneft, Alexei Uvarov, head of the Economy Ministry’s property department, said in September.
Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin proposed Rosneft be allowed to purchase the government’s 25 percent of the port group, Kommersant reported in February, citing a letter he addressed to Putin.
Sechin, who oversees the energy industry, was chairman of Rosneft before a presidential order last year required senior government officials to surrender their positions on the boards of state companies they regulate.
“Novorossiysk has performed well recently, giving a well- received investment strategy and trying to do the right thing by the market.” Astapov said. “Changes in operational control won’t be appreciated by investors.”
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