ONE of the most discussed ownership stakes in the short but nevertheless rich history of privatization in Slovakia is heading back to Slovakia after seven years in foreign hands. Slovakia has bought back its 49-percent stake in major crude oil pipeline operator Transpetrol from Yukos International for $240 million.
On behalf of the Slovak government, Slovak Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek signed the deal with Yukos top management in London on March 26. The transaction will be wrapped up after Slovakia’s antitrust authority seals the deal and Slovakia’s privatization agency, the National Property Fund, takes a position.
Prime Minister Robert Fico described the process as a great victory for Slovakia and suggested that there was quite a race for the shares. Jahnátek said that the negotiations were complicated with “many disturbing elements,” according to the SITA newswire.
Fico also suggested that after getting Transpetrol back, Slovakia might continue in its efforts to reacquire the once-sold shares in other strategic companies as well.
“Everywhere where we could succeed or there is a room for regaining control over the privatized shares, we would do so,” Fico said as quoted by public service Slovak Radio. “We of course want to have peace and stability secured, so we would do it in a legal way, we would use means which are fully acceptable in international trade within the international framework.”
Fico also suggested that re-control of Transpetrol might help Slovakia to reduce its oil dependence on Russia.
According to Fico, Slovakia would finance the buyback of the Transpetrol stake with state assets.
“We are only transferring state assets in cash into assets in the form of shares, i.e. it is extremely advantageous for Slovakia,” said the prime minister as quoted by SITA.
Slovakia has tried several times to buy back the Transpetrol shares. The Slovak government sold the 49-percent stake in Transpetrol to Yukos in 2002 for $74 million and the foreign investor also gained managerial control over the company. However, Yukos found itself in financial trouble in 2003 when Russia decided it owed back taxes worth $27 billion (Sk679.8 billion or €20.1 billion).
In December 2004 Yukos sold its main production division, Yuganskneftegaz, to Rosneft in a forced auction. A Moscow arbitration court also complied with creditors’ requests for a bankruptcy hearing and declared Yukos bankrupt on August 1, 2006.
Then, in October 2007, a court in Amsterdam recognised Bruce Misamore and David Godfrey as the legitimate heads of the Dutch-registered company Yukos Finance on October 31.
According to SITA, during his working visit to the United States on March 7, 2008, Jahnátek met with Bruce Misamore and David Godfrey, the American managers of Yukos Finance and declared Slovakia’s country’s interest in reacquiring the Transpetrol shares.
Transpetrol transports Russian crude oil to Slovakia and the Czech Republic and provides storage of crude oil products for its customers and administers state resource reserves.
30. Mar 2009 at 10:00 | Compiled by Beata Balogová from press reports