26 Apr 2010 13:45

AFK Sistema acquires 49% of RussNeft stock

MOSCOW. April 26 (Interfax) - AFK Sistema wrapped up the purchase of 49% of shares in oil company RussNeft on April 23, an official statement from Sistema says.

AFK Sistema signed an agreement to buy the stake at the end of March, the price to depend on RussNeft meeting a series of financial and operational indicators but in no event to exceed $100 million.

Sources close to the deal said that RussNeft's former chief Mikhail Gutseriev will retain 49% and Sberbank of Russia , the oil company's main creditor, will get 2%. Gutseriev will retain operational control over the company.

Sistema's President Leonid Melamed said at a press conference that the company is not interested in controlling RussNeft at this point, particularly in buying the 2% Sberbank of Russia gets, and attributed this position to RussNeft's current financial condition.

RussNeft, which Gutseriev founded, came under the control of Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element in 2007. BasEl did not officially become the oil company's owner, as Russian regulators did not give the necessary permission. RussNeft officially returned to Gutseriev this year.

A criminal case against Gutseriev, who had been charged with illegal business activities, has been reported dropped, and he may be returning to Russia sometime in the next few weeks.

AFK Sistema management has said more than once that the corporation was interested in building one of Russia's largest vertically integrated oil companies. Sistema controls Bashkortostan fuel assets and needs to balance extraction and refining.