Three 'oligarchs' bought $1bn of Rosneft shares

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The Independent Online

Two more leading Russian "oligarchs", Vladimir Lisin and Oleg Deripaska, have emerged as key investors in the controversial flotation of the oil giant Rosneft.

Along with the Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, the trio spent more than $1bn (£540m) in buying shares in the company. Their investment helped guarantee Rosneft's successful debut on the London Stock Exchange this month at a time when global stocks were volatile and appears to have bought them at least 10 per cent of all Rosneft shares available.

In putting their money into Rosneft, Mr Abramovich (Russia's richest man), Mr Lisin (the third richest) and Mr Deripaska (the sixth wealthiest) offered the Kremlin a measure of support that is likely to stand them in good stead for years to come.

Oligarchs such as Mssrs Abramovich and Deripaska do not usually dabble in portfolio investing, preferring to acquire controlling stakes in companies. But they were willing to make an exception with Rosneft because it was thought that its partial IPO - in London and in Moscow - was inextricably bound up with high Kremlin politics.

According to the Russian daily newspaper Vedomosti, the three oligarchs used their fabulous wealth to counterbalance the scepticism and hostility that surrounded the Rosneft float.

It was known that Mr Abramovich ploughed about $300m into Rosneft but it was not known that the steel kingpin Vladimir Lisin and the aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska also invested.

Vedomosti said Mr Deripaska bought shares worth $500m-$1bn while Mr Lisin was reported to have invested $200m.

A further $1bn of shares appears to have been acquired by entities linked to the oil company Surgutneftegaz and its billionaire general director, Vladimir Bogdanov.

The state-controlled Rosneft came to market (14.8 per cent of it was sold for $10.4bn) amid a storm of criticism over the provenance of its biggest asset, the oil unit Yuganskneftegaz. "Yugansk" previously belonged to the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his oil firm Yukos but it was acquired by Rosneft on the cheap through a bizarre Kremlin-orchestrated forced sale at the end of 2004.

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