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IN SHORT BUSINESS

Slovnaft wants Transpetrol shares

SLOVNAFT is interested in buying Transpetrol shares from the troubled Russian oil company Yukos. While Yukos is battling possible bankruptcy over tax fraud charges, the fate of the firm's 49-percent stake in Slovak pipeline operator Transpetrol is uncertain.

"If the Slovak Economy Ministry succeeds in buying back Yukos' minority stake in Transpetrol and will offer it for the privatisation, Slovanft will take part in that process", Slovnaft General Director Vratko Kaššovic told the Hospodárske noviny daily.

The Slovak government sold its 49-percent share to Yukos for Sk74 million (€1.85 million) in 2002. Slovnaft took part in the tender but was unsuccessful.

Slovnaft said it would enter any new tender for Transpetrol shares as a member of an international consortium.

Kaššovic sees Transpetrol as a possible tool for ensuring reliable shipments of oil to Slovnaft. He refuses to address speculation that Slovnaft would use a minority share in Transpetrol to strengthen Slovnaft's dominant position on the national oil market.

Economy Minister Pavol Rusko recently mentioned a scenario in which the Slovak government would buy back its minority stake in Transpetrol while Yukos faces possible liquidation.

The Slovak government sent a letter to the Russian government expressing interest in acquiring Yukos' stake, in the hope that Russia would support its wishes.

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