Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inkombank Cries Foul Over Shipyard

Two banking empires are locked in a battle for control of Severnaya Verf.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Inkombank is crying foul over Uneximbank-MFK group's latest attempt to sew up control of shipbuilding giant Severnaya Verf.

The two mighty banking empires are locked in a vicious battle for control of the shipyard, a battle that Uneximbank said last week has already cost the shipyard $2 million and could threaten a billion-dollar merger plan with Baltiisky Zavod, another city shipyard that is also controlled by Uneximbank-MFK.

Uneximbank-MFK held a shareholders' meeting April 28 that disbanded the current board, elected last spring when Inkombank held the voting rights to a vital 33 percent stake in Severnaya Verf that was since transferred to Uneximbank-MFK, and called another meeting to elect a new board.

Inkombank was not represented at that meeting because of "an error on the board of directors' part, [that meant] the Inkombank representative did not receive ballots" for the vote, Interfax quoted Yevgeny Zinin, a spokesman for Balt-Uneximbank, the local affiliate of Uneximbank, as saying.

But Inkombank successfully petitioned the St. Petersburg State Arbitration Court for an injunction on the meeting, which had been set for last Thursday. A notice undersigned by the board of directors of Severnaya Verf ran in local newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskiye Vedomosti last Wednesday.

Uneximbank-MFK went ahead with the meeting despite the court order and succeeded in starting proceedings Thursday. However, before a new board could be elected the court decision blocking the meeting was officially delivered and the meeting was postponed, Zinin said.

Konstantin Sidorov, Inkombank's spokesman, was not available for comment Friday and Monday.

Mikhail Lobin, deputy head of the Balt-Uneximbank administrative board, was quoted by Interfax as saying his bank had appealed the injunction and that it expects the ruling to be overturned. A decision due Thursday, however, was delayed until May 27.

Uneximbank-MFK group had declared victory in a three-sided battle for Severnaya Verf last November after the St. Petersburg Arbitration Court ruled that Severnaya Verf's management was within its rights last March when it took back a block of shares given in trust to Inkombank ally Soyuzkontrakt and then transferred those shares -- a 33 percent stake in Severnaya Verf -- to Interrosprom, part of the Uneximbank-MFK group.

Uneximbank-MFK owns a 19 percent stake in Severnaya Verf outright, giving it control of 52 percent of the shipyard's shares -- on paper at least.

But while Uneximbank-MFK on paper controlled a majority stake in Severnaya Verf since November's ruling, the shipyard's board of directors was still controlled by Inkombank, which had been holding Soyuzkontrakt's 33 percent package. Inkombank owns an 18.85 percent stake in Severnaya Verf, while the city property fund, according to Interfax, holds about 21 percent of Severnaya Verf's shares.

"The board of directors now does not reflect the ownership of the enterprise," said Zinin.

Earlier this year, the board of directors of Severnaya Verf attempted to dissolve an agreement between Severnaya Verf and Baltiisky Zavod -- latter of also under the Unexim control -- that had been signed within several weeks of Uneximbank's court victory giving it control of Severnaya Verf, Zinin said.

The two shipyards had signed an agreement to unite to form the United Baltic Shipyard management company, a move officials said earlier this year was designed to better organize work on foreign orders worth over $1.4 billion.