Lebedev Uses Aeroflot Stake for Loan

Alexander Lebedev's National Reserve Corp. borrowed $145 million from its banking unit, using a 25 percent stake in Aeroflot, the country's biggest airline, as collateral.

The loan will be used to refinance domestic and foreign debt, National Reserve Bank, the lender, said in an e-mailed statement Thursday.

National Reserve Corp., which owns about 29 percent of Aeroflot, faced a margin call last year from Deutsche Bank for $23 million of debt secured by 3 percent of the carrier. The company said Dec. 20 that it had applied to Deutsche Bank and state-owned Vneshekonombank, or VEB, for refinancing.

The news comes after VTB Group, Russia's second-biggest bank, said Tuesday that it raised its stake in Aeroflot to 10.6 percent from 6.7 percent.

Lev Koshlyakov, deputy CEO of Aeroflot, would not say how VTB acquired the stake.

Lebedev said the purchase "does not have anything to do with us," but Interfax cited a source close to the deal as saying that National Reserve Corp. sold the stake in a repo auction.

At the end of last year, National Reserve Corp. faced a margin call from Deutsche Bank, and Lebedev said that unless the company injected $130 million of cash, it would have to hand over the shares to Deutsche Bank.

Meanwhile, Lebedev is continuing an effort to buy a controlling stake in the London Evening Standard newspaper from Daily Mail and General Trust, a person with direct knowledge of the bid said.

An answer on the proposal to acquire 75 percent plus one share was expected Thursday, a person familiar with the talks said.

(Bloomberg, MT)