Paolo Scaroni of Eni said that the company had no plans to sell their acquired stake in Gazprom Neft. We suggested that they may have been goaded into doing some “asset laundering” – becoming the first foreign company to buy assets from a Yukos auction, helping to give better title to stolen assets and legitimize a criminal process. Now they are selling it back to the Russian government, who apparently believes they rightfully stole the assets in the first place. The writing was on the wall, and any reader of this blog shouldn’t be surprised by this scandalous transaction.
Here is some coverage from the Financial Times, which doesn’t believe the timing of the acquisition is related to the Khodorkovsky trial – though it certainly drives home the point that the assets were illegally stolen:
The Kremlin may have told the oligarchs it is not prepared to bail them out indiscriminately. But it is not being shy about splashing around state money to state-controlled companies. Gazprom is paying $4.2bn to Italy’s Eni for 20 per cent of oil company Gazprom Neft – formerly Roman Abramovich’s Sibneft – to add to its existing 75 per cent stake.
No matter that Gazprom is Russia’s most indebted company, with $48bn in borrowings, and is squeezed by falling export revenues. It will get financing from three state-controlled banks. In effect, Russia is moving money from one pocket to another. (…)
The deal closes another chapter of the Yukos affair, just as MikhailKhodorkovsky, the former Yukos chief, finds himself back in court onnew, politically-motivated embezzling charges. Still, that seemsunlikely to have been a factor. More likely, the deal shows Russia ispressing on with returning oil and gas assets to state control – creditcrunch notwithstanding. Gazprom moves one step closer to its ambitionof building a giant oil company alongside its gas business. And onestep closer to having sufficient oil assets to slam into, say, a 51-49per cent merger with TNK-BP.