Now that Yukos has “expired,” we are left to ponder exactly what went on during the last auction lot, which was expected to raise only a few hundred million dollars from the sale (likely to Rosneft) of Yukos’ 22-story Moscow office building, but in actuality generated nearly $4 billion from an intense bidding war. From the FT:
…an obscure company bought an auctioned lot, including Yukos’s headquarters building, for almost $4bn (£2bn), in what looked at first glance to be the most expensive property deal in recent history.
The company, Prana, bid nearly five times the starting price of Rbs22bn (£430m) to head off state-controlled Rosneft in 707 rounds of bidding.
Observers were baffled by the price paid for the lot, which, at first glance, included only the office building…and acouple of shell companies.
Prana is, according to wikipedia, a sanscript word for “breath” or some such, used mainly in yoga practices–though some how I doubt that the office will be turned into a new-age workout studio.
It turns out that those “shell companies,” which apparently include trading and sales units, still held active (or recently active) accounts possibly worth a couple billion dollars themselves. The sale had been headlined by the office building (and its associated property–certainly a valuable commodity in Moscow, even if it isn’t right in the center of the city), which was valued at around $300 million. It is not exactly clear if the auctioneers realized the extra worth within the associated companies, or whether they were ignorant along with most every one else–except, apparently Rosneft and the mysterious Parna.
It could very well have been one last attempt at a “F-You” to Yukos by Rosneft, making off with the last of the fallen company’s sales for bargain-basement prices, behind the backs of critical outside observers. Instead, it raised about another $4 billion, pushing the total amount raised from Yukos’ auctions to over $30 billion. Yukos’ stock, long-thought worthless, also rose to 57 cents on news of the surprise sale, before closing at 52 cents (it’s now at 49 cents).
I’ll comment more after I read some of the Russian coverage, but it looks to be that one of the shell companies, “YUKOS-M,” was the main firm’s “purse,” acting as a lending and surplus vehicle. Just how much was left within the “purse,” is still unclear, however.
Update: According to Kommersant, it looks like Prana may have some obscure connections to Gazprom. Russia’s anti-monopoly agency is threatening to vitiate the auction if the true backers behind Prana aren’t revealed, and this could be a legitimate threat given the precedence, but we’ll see.