Yukos Says No Final Decision on Sibneft
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s largest oil producer Yukos said Wednesday that no final decision had been made on whether to proceed with its takeover of Sibneft, though key investors reportedly were moving to unwind the deal.
``You have a company that has been acquired that is no longer apparently interested in moving forward,″ Yukos chief financial officer Bruce Misamore told Dow Jones Newswires. ``There are absolutely no decisions on which direction anything could go.″
However, Russian business daily Vedomosti quoted a source close to Sibneft’s controlling shareholders, led by oil tycoon Roman Abramovich, as saying they had agreed in principle to reverse the deal and that Sibneft wouldn’t have to pay the $1 billion breakup fee contained in the merger agreement.
A Yukos source, speaking on condition of anonymity, later gave a similar account to Dow Jones, saying Sibneft’s major shareholders informed Yukos this week that they were ready to pay back $3 billion and give up their stake in Yukos in order to unwind the $11 billion merger.
Vedomosti said the core shareholders of Yukos weren’t convinced that the offer was genuine and doubted that the $3 billion cash payment in particular would be returned in full.
The merger that would have created the world’s fourth-largest oil producer was abruptly suspended last month on the very day it was to be finalized. Media reports said the reason for the move was Sibneft’s push for its candidates to take the helm of the merged company _ a demand Yukos core shareholders rejected.
Vedomosti cited a source close to Abramovich as saying he also wanted to kill the deal because the prospect of selling his share to a foreign investor in the future for even more money had vanished.
Yukos has been the target of a wide-ranging government probe that culminated with the Oct. 25 arrest of its ex-chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of tax evasion and fraud and the subsequent freezing of about 40 percent of the company’s stakes. Many see the investigation as a move to curb the growing financial and political clout of Khodorkovsky, who financed several opposition parties in the outgoing parliament.
President Vladimir Putin has denied political motives are behind the probe into Yukos, and said that the investigation isn’t a signal of a broad revision of the privatizations of the 1990s.