The sale of 40 percent of shares in the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), which was set for July 18, has been postponed by the Tyumen arbitration court in response to an appeal by an obscure Liechtenstein-based firm. Cadet Establishment reportedly holds 9 percent of the shares and claims that the firm’s charter violates the securities law. (Kommersant-daily, July 12)
TNK is one of the last major state-owned oil companies awaiting privatization. It controls the giant Samotlor field, which produces $1.8 billion worth of oil per year. Over the next two months the shares of another five, smaller companies are due to go on sale: Komi-TEK, East-Siberian Oil and Gas, NORSI-oil, Eastern Oil Company, and the Siberia-Urals Company. (Finansovye izvestia, July 3) It is widely assumed that the government is trying to fix the sale of the TNK shares to ensure that Alfa Group gains control of the firm. Alfa, for example, was allowed to submit collateral and not cash as part of its investment tender for TNK. Moreover, the first wave of oil company privatizations under the loans-for-shares scheme in 1995-96 (the first "oil war"), left each major commercial bank except Alfa with its own oil company – Menatep controls YUKOS; Oneksimbank has Sidanko; and SBS-Agro, in collaboration with Boris Berezovsky, controls Sibneft. (Ekspert, No. 24, June 30)
The Tyumen company is resisting privatization into the hands of Moscow bankers, however. The fight is being led by Viktor Paly, the director of Nizhnevartovskneftgaz, which is TNK’s main oil-mining subsidiary. Over the past year Paly has been engaged in a war of words with Anatoly Chubais, who has tried to force Paly from office by threatening to bankrupt the company for tax arrears. Paly, in turn, is backed by the governors of Tyumen and Khanty-Mansii, the autonomous region where the oil is located: Paly proposes that 45 percent of the company’s shares be given to the regional authorities. According to some reports Berezovsky, who is close to SBS and Menatep, is supporting Paly in his efforts to fend off Alfa Group (Kommersant-daily, July 8)
At the TNK board of directors meeting on June 20 the government, which owns 91 percent of TNK, tried to replace Paly with Yury Shafranik, a former Russian oil minister, but failed due to a series of comic procedural errors. Local workers picketed the meeting with placards in favor of "Our Oil General Paly."
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