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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Anti-Monopoly Service Probes Illegal Yukos-Sibneft Collusion

Antitrust officials are investigating allegations that Yukos and Sibneft illegally coordinated their business activities before they reached an agreement to merge last year and will make their findings known Thursday, a spokeswoman for the new Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said Monday.

Larisa Bulgakova said the probe was launched at the request of Nimegan Trading, a Sibneft-connected trading company, but she declined to elaborate.

Sibneft spokesman John Mann said the probe had nothing to do with his company, which is trying to back out of last year's record $13.9 billion tie-up with Yukos. But stakeholders in Yukos and oil industry analysts all said the investigation was clearly timed to disrupt an extraordinary meeting of Sibneft shareholders slated for Sunday and to hasten the reversal of the company's takeover by Yukos.

A source from Yukos said last week that the company wants to use Sunday's meeting to introduce changes to Sibneft's charter that would allow its board to hire and fire the company's president.

"[This] is simply yet another attempt to prevent Yukos from changing the management of Sibneft at the [extraordinary shareholders] meeting and acquire control over the company," another major Yukos shareholder, Vladimir Dubov, told Vedomosti from exile in Israel.

Troika Dialog analyst Kakha Kiknavelidze said that while the anti-monopoly service does not have the power to demerge the two companies in one fell swoop, any violations that it unearths can be used as grounds for further court claims. "It is one of the strategies being used by former Sibneft shareholders to break off the deal," he said.

A key stage in that strategy also involved Nimegan Trading, which won a momentous court ruling earlier this month that annulled the share emission Yukos used to complete its deal with Sibneft. Yukos' shareholders say they still own 92 percent of Sibneft and plan to vote those shares at Sunday's meeting.

"This investigation is born out of the same trading vehicle that sought the annulment of the share issue -- that really says it all," said Adam Landes of Renaissance Capital.