Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) was expected to rule on Oleg Deripaska’s bid to buy the oil company Russneft by the end of November, but there is yet to be a word on their decision. The FAS had previously taken a one-week extension, allegedly due to changes in case examination procedure, but that deadline has also passed. They are now choosing to remain mum.
Rulings on two tax evasion suits filed against the oil company by Russia’s tax service, following the predominant trend, were also delayed.
Meanwhile, snap elections have been called for the boards of directors of five main Russneft subsidiaries. They are scheduled for late January through early February at the Varyerganneft, Saratovneftegaz, Orsknefteorrgsintez, Neftermaslozavod and Orenburgnefteprodukt subsidiaries. None of the five are those cited last month as having breached the terms of their resource licenses; investigations into those violations are currently underway.
A source within the company told Kommersant that two vice-presidents had also been recently replaced with Oleg Schegolev and Igor Marchenko, both former members of management at the natural gas firm Itera. Rumored to have been axed are Dimitry Romanov (vice president for corporate relations) and Olga Prozorovskaya (senior vice president for finances), both of whom shared seats on a majority of subsidiaries’ boards with embattled former Russneft head Mikhail Gutseriev. Another vice president, Sergei Bakhir, left for vacation and has not returned, theoretically opening his position for a management shift. He is facing a criminal charge along with Gutseriev, who is currently on the run from Russian authorities.
These leadership changes are seen as the first steps in preparing the company for inclusion under Oleg Deripaska’s holding company, Basic Element. The expectation seems to be that the FAS will have ruled before the scheduled votes for the boards of director, allowing Deripaska to insert his own management team into the boards’ makeup once his firm takes control.
Speaking of Gutseriev, according to the British ambassador to Russia, he has not applied to England for asylum, nor are his whereabouts known by Interpol. He apparently used his connections in Belarus — stemming from a $90 million investment in the RussNeft-Bryansk oil firm there, 25% of which he then gifted to Lukashenko’s government — to escape from Russia. His final destination has been suggested as Switzerland (cited because of his close ties to Glencore, though I would imagine he would have had more dealings with the commodity trader’s London offices) or somewhere in the Middle East (referring to his Muslim faith and connections to the oil sphere). For now, though, it remains a mystery.