Sibir shares slide 23% on market comeback

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The Independent Online

Sibir Energy shares changed hands again on the Alternative Investment Market yesterday, for about 23 per cent less than before trading was suspended in April.

They fell 64p to 216p a day after the Russo-British oil company agreed to fork out £15m to the Moscow tycoon Chalva Tchigirinsky, its biggest investor, for arranging a much-needed £77.5m loan package. The cash prevents Sibir from losing control of its second Siberian oil field in less than a year.

Henry Cameron, Sibir's chief executive, said that without the fresh funds Sibir would have been forced to hand its 50 per cent stake in the 800-million-barrel Salym oil field to Shell.

Despite some shareholder unrest earlier this week, he insisted the hefty payment to Mr Tchigirinsky was half the price the banks would have demanded to arrange similar funding. After the 10-for-one split, the payment is to be made in Sibir shares. That will lift the Russian's stake from 42 per cent to 52 per cent, and dilute other investors.

Banks were unwilling to make competitive loans to the company after the loss earlier this year of almost all its £57.2m stake in the Yugra field to its partner Sibneft, the oil company owned by the Chelsea FC boss Roman Abramovich.

Sibir's 50 per cent stake in Yugra was massively diluted, leaving the firm eventually holding less than 1 per cent of the field after Yugra appeared to issue new shares to Sibneft. That led to suspension of trading in Sibir shares nine months ago. Several court cases are now pending in Moscow, but Sibneft insists it has done nothing wrong.

Separately, Sibir also revealed it is increasing its stake in the Moscow Oil and Gas Company (MOGC) from 40 per cent to a shade more than 70 per cent. MOGC owns a Russian oil refinery and holds a 25 per cent stake in 40 BP petrol stations in and around Moscow.

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