Gazprom buys 16 per cent stake in Sibir

The Russian energy giant Gazprom yesterday swooped to buy 16 per cent of Sibir Energy, for 70p a share more than TNK-BP, the Anglo-Russian group that is a minority shareholder in the company, was believed to be willing to pay.

Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank, said last night that it had paid 500p a share for the minority stake on behalf of Gazprom Neft, the company's oil arm. The price represents a premium of almost three times Sibir's last closing price in February, when trading in the stock was suspended pending an investigation into the group's agreement to buy distressed real estate assets from one its biggest backers, Chalva Tchigirinski.

Credit Suisse, which had been organising an approach from TNK-BP, declared its client's bid was formally over, saying Gazprom's offer was above what its client's shareholders had agreed to pay.

The fight for the shares began on Wednesday when Credit Suisse said TNK-BP was preparing a bid of 430p a share for a proportion of the 35 per cent of Sibir's shares that are in free float. As late as yesterday lunchtime, Sibir denied that it had also received interest from Gazprom Neft, despite Credit Suisse citing the Russians' offer as the reason for TNK-BP's withdrawal. "We are pleased to have become a significant minority shareholder in a company that we regard as a world-class asset," Gazprom Neft's chief executive Alexander Dyukov said yesterday.

Including Mr Tchigirinski's 23.5 per cent stake, 65 per cent of Sibir shares are held by just three Russian shareholders. The stock was suspended earlier this year when it was discovered the group had transferred $320m to Mr Tchigirinski for property deals that had already been cancelled. Mr Tchigirinski had been seeking to raise funds to avoid margin calls on loans he had drawn using his Sibir shares as collateral.

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