Lawyer: Sberbank Asked Sibir for $60M

VedomostiPeople walking outside the Londons High Court, where Chigirinsky is defending his rights to a stake in Sibir Energy.
Sberbank wanted a $60 million “premium” for providing Sibir Energy with a $192 million loan, a lawyer for Shalva Chigirinsky, the oil company’s beleaguered former shareholder, told a London court.

Details of the loan agreement were disclosed in evidence presented by Christopher Grierson, a partner at the British legal firm Lovells who is representing Chigirinsky in London’s High Court. Vedomosti obtained a copy of the evidence, and Grierson has confirmed its authenticity.

The former billionaire is in court to defend his claim to a 23 percent stake in Sibir Energy.

Chigirinsky found out about the condition “at the last minute,” before the deal with Sberbank was concluded, Grierson said, citing his client.

Negotiations with the bank were conducted last fall, when Chigirinsky was in danger of losing his stake in Sibir Energy due to a barrage of margin calls by Merrill Lynch. They were led by Igor Kesayev, Chigirinsky’s partner at Sibir Energy, the document said.

The document said the Sibir Energy executives assumed that Sberbank would lend around $200 million with an interest rate of 11 percent to 12 percent to Kesayev’s Orton Oil, which would then transfer the funds to Gradison, a company controlled by Chigirinsky.

This method was chosen because Orton Oil already had a credit history with Sberbank, the document said.

The final amount of the loan was $192 million, with an interest rate of 16 percent. But in addition to commissions of $2.28 million, Sberbank wanted Gradison to “pay a premium to Sberbank Capital in the amount of $60 million,” Grierson said.

Sberbank Capital is a subsidiary of Sberbank.

Parties to the deal prepared to formalize the extra $60 million as a repo transaction for an 8.6 percent stake in Bennfield, which held a 46.65 percent stake in Sibir Energy.

Chigirinsky’s company was going to sell the shares to Sberbank Capital for $1, and in turn buy up 4 percent of Sibir Energy’s shares on the London Stock Exchange, but not for less than $60 million, according to the documents.

Memorandums for the deal were signed simultaneously with the issuance of the loan for $192 million, but the deal itself did not take place.

The documents presented by Grierson said that Chigirinsky sought advice from the legal firm Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners, who told him that a Russian court would view the documents regarding Bennfield as “regulated by Russian laws” and therefore “not legally binding.”

Alexander Muranov, a managing partner at the firm, confirmed that he provided an opinion on the issue to Chigirinsky’s legal team, but refused to comment further.

When asked about the deal, Sberbank’s press office said: “This information is a bank secret.”