Imperial Sinks As Owner Sells Shares

Shares of Imperial Energy, a London-based company that explores for oil in Russia, dived 9.1 percent on Tuesday after ABN Amro Holding said it was selling 1.5 million shares in the company.

The bank said in an e-mail sent to clients that it was selling the shares on behalf of Peter Levine, the company's chairman.

Imperial Energy was founded by the flamboyant English lawyer in 2004, at the height of the state-led campaign that bankrupted Yukos.

Levine's decision appears to be an attempt to allow Imperial Energy to raise much-needed funds to aggressively develop its oil fields at a time of high oil prices, said Mikhail Zak, an oil and gas analyst with Veles Capital.

Imperial Energy caught investors' attention last year when an independent audit by DeGolyer and MacNaughton nearly doubled the size of its reserves to 800 million barrels, causing its shares to jump 121 percent. The company trades on the London Stock Exchange.

But the report also prompted Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental agency, to threaten to revoke the company's main license for allegedly overstating it reserves.

Zak said Imperial Energy "appeared to have reached some sort of compromise with the Russian government on the issue, adding, "In Russia, such problems don't just go away."