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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Milk Factory Slipping Out St. Pete Sberbank's Hands

ST. PETERSBURG -- Sberbank's St. Petersburg division is in danger of losing control of the city's Roska milk production facility to investors who recently bought the controlling interest in the factory, and the bank appears to be doing whatever it can to keep this from happening.

Through its affiliates Rust and Globus, Sberbank holds roughly 40 percent of Roska's shares, but the controlling interest is now in the hands of three private persons, one of whom is Alexei Narovlyansky, president of the Colibri food processing concern.

Narovlyansky, along with Margarita Khapugina and Yevgeny Mikhailov - who are not connected to Colibri - purchased his stakes earlier this year from Petmol-Invest, a daughter company of Petmol, the city's largest dairy producer.

In their first response to the purchase, Sberbank attempted to issue new stock in the company, a move that would have diluted the new buyers' stakes in Roska. Under the law, the present shareholders should have had first preference at purchasing the new issue, but Sberbank announced its intention to float the issue publicly.

Khapugina, however, appealed to St. Petersburg's Vyborg District Court to have the new issue suspended, and the court upheld the appeal.

Leonid Shats, St. Petersburg Sberbank's deputy chairman, said the motivation behind Khapugina's appeal is simple. "The new shareholders, who have first preference at buying any new stock issues, don't have enough money, so they just had to ban the issue."

At a news conference this month, Narovlyansky said Sberbank has mismanaged Roska, leaving the company near bankruptcy. He said Sberbank-Invest, the daughter company of the bank that is responsible for the factory's management, had made contracts unfavorable to the enterprise.

In 1997 Petmol, supported by the bank, purchased a 47 percent stake in Roska. Two years later, new prospective investors appeared - the Swedish companies Swedfund International and SwedeAgriInvest. By December 1999, through an agreement signed between Sberbank, Petmol and the Swedish companies, they had set up a holding company named Petmol-United Milk Factories to manage the property.

Narovlyansky seems to be in for the long term and to be interested in turning the dairy producer around. He announced the new investors' intention to invest $5 million in Roska, $3 million of which will be used to pay off debts and $2 million of which will be spent on new equipment and increasing the firm's working capital.