GAZPROM Neft, the oil arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom, yesterday moved a step closer to taking control of Sibir Energy, the oil firm embroiled in an investigation over loans to one of its major shareholders.
Gazprom Neft launched a recommended cash offer at 500p a share for the rest of the outstanding shares in the company, barring those owned by three remaining powerful investors, valuing Sibir at around £1.93bn.
The move boosted Gazprom Neft’s shareholding to around 33.5 per cent, though Sibir has waived its right to apply the rule that would usually necessitate an official takeover bid for the company if a single shareholder builds a stake of over 30 per cent.
Gazprom Neft brought its stake in Sibir up to 27.5 per cent last week, after snapping up 16 per cent in April, when it won a bidding war with TNK-BP by paying a 70p premium to its larger rival’s 430p-a-share offer.
Yesterday’s offer excludes shares owned by Bennfield Limited, the City of Moscow – which owns 18 per cent through Central Fuel Company and is thought to be an unlikely seller – and the Bank of Moscow. Bennfield represents the holdings of Chalva Tchigirinsky – the shareholder at the centre of the loan allegations – and Igor Kesayev, who together own around 47 per cent of Sibir.
Sibir’s shares were suspended on the Aim market in February, after the firm discovered it was owed around $325m (£204m) by Tchigirinsky, almost triple the amount it originally disclosed.