Saturday, September 15, 2007

Election fire sales

As usual, the onset of early elections in Ukraine has elicited some quick footwork by Ukraine's major business players to gain further assets, or to protect their own existing interests.

I've posted recently on the 'bargain-basement' acquisition of a big slice of energy generator 'Dniproenergo', by companies associated with Rinat Akhmetov, gaving Yuliya Tymoshenko a weapon with which to 'hand-bag' PoR.

PoR have been forced to respond via an official statement to Tymoshenko's assault, and there are rumours that a counter-attack is being prepared which will reveal that companies close to Tymoshenko herself had caused the decline of Dniproenergo.

Today 'Ukrainska Pravda' even suggests there are reasonable grounds to assume that officials in Yushchenko's secretariat tacitly approved the deal, which now gives Akhmetov a dominant stake in the Ukrainian power generation market.

And today 'Kommersant-Ukraina' runs a story [repeated elsewhere in Ukrainian] which reveals how two other of Ukraine's richest oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk and Ihor Kolomoysky, have pulled off a clever stunt to reduce the odds of another huge industrial enterprise, the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant [NZF], ever being reprivatized.

I have in the past posted detailed background on the saga of NZF, which Tymoshenko had tried to reprivatize in 2005. Its owners, Pinchuk and Kolomoysky, had been rivals, but recently joined forces to prevent any possible reprivatization. They are now both regarded as generally 'pro-Yushchenko'.

Anyhow, here are some portions from the Kommersant article:

"Viktor Pinchuk and Ihor Kolomoysky [act to] protect NZF shares from [possible] reprivatization - as a result of Pinchuk's efforts, the block of shares in NZF, which could be returned to state, is now less than 10%. Yesterday the shareholders of NZF decided to increase the company statutory fund by more than five times. In the opinion of lawyers, the shareholders of NZF want to secure their business from possible attempts to reprivatize it after the parliamentary elections.

NZF accounts for about 10% of world market for ferro alloys. In 2006 the enterprise produced 628 thousand tons of silicomanganese, 260,6 thousand tons of ferromanganese and 4,3 thousand tons of other ferro alloys. Profits in 2006 - 1,152 million hryven [over $200m].

73% of the shares are owned by a consortium which is a part of Pinchuk's "Interpipe", 26% belong to the structures of Ihor Kolomoysky's "Privat" group.

The shareholders decided to increase the statutory fund by 312 million grn - to 387.88 million hryven by the closed issue of additional shares. "After the five-fold increase in the NZF statutory fund, the disputed state packet will be reduced from a controlling share to less than the 10%," said one commentator. [Tymoshenko has waged a long battle to return to state ownership 50% + 1 of the shares of the company.]

LEvko thinks maybe these guys are getting a bit worried how things pan out after September 30th. Akhmetov and Pinchuk, who had owned Kryvorizhstal before Yulka resold it, do not want to take another beating from that woman.

p.s. More background information, on how NFZ's 'owners' planned to water down any majority stake in the company that could possibly be returned to the state, can be read in 'Kyiv Post' here, in an April 25th 2007 piece on shady privatizations.

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