Sibir shares suspended as shareholder's debt triples

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The Independent Online

The London-listed Russian oil company Sibir Energy suspended its shares yesterday after it emerged that its majority shareholder, a Georgian property developer, owes more than twice the $115m (£80m) previously acknowledged.

Chalva Tchigirinski owes Sibir some $325m, and the board is now conducting an inquiry into how the misreporting arose. The general meeting scheduled for this month has been postponed, as the board assesses "the effect of this increase on Sibir's ability to recover the indebtedness and the consequent impact on Sibir's financial position," the company said.

It has been a bumpy ride for Sibir shareholders. Last month, they revolted over plans for the company to buy $340m-worth of distressed real estate assets from Mr Tchigirinski, including the Sovietsky hotel. The plan, put forward in December, was the second of its type. In October, shareholders were outraged by a proposal to spend $157m buying Mr Tchigirinski out of developments in Moscow. Both schemes were touted as the means to "preserve Sibir's key intangible asset, its existing shareholder structure".

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