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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Evrofinance, Gazprom in Media Deal

Wresting talk away from widespread speculation over the future of NTV television, its owner Gazprom announced plans Monday to create a joint media holding company with the Evrofinance financial group by the end of the year.

Novaya Gazeta reported Monday that Evrofinance, a subsidiary of the Central Bank-founded bank of the same name, intended to seal a deal by Thursday to buy Gazprom's controlling stake in NTV and install former FSB spokesman Alexander Zdanovich as the station's general director.

Officials at Evrofinance and Gazprom-Media, an arm of the state's natural gas monopoly, refused to comment on what they called rumors Monday.

Evrofinance vice president Andrei Galiyev said the plans for the holding have been in the works since Evrofinance bought a minority share in Gazprom-Media in September 2002.

Gazprom will hold a controlling 51 percent stake in the holding, while Evrofinance will have the other 49 percent, he said.

Besides NTV, Gazprom-Media controls satellite station NTV-Plus, radio station Ekho Moskvy and the Sem Dnei publishing house, among others. Evrofinance since last fall has held a minority stake in the regional Petersburg television and radio stations.

Gazprom currently holds "more than 70 percent" of NTV, and the rest belongs to Evrofinance, Gazprom-Media spokeswoman Irina Gan said.

Novaya Gazeta suggested that NTV's focus would shift from society and politics to entertainment if Evrofinance took over, and that top journalists like "Namedni" anchor Leonid Parfyonov would leave. The newspaper said Evrofinance bank shareholders are close to the St. Petersburg siloviki.

But Andrei Richter, the head of Moscow's Media Law and Policy Center, saw little significance in which state-controlled firm ran NTV.

"It doesn't seem a question of weaker or stronger state control," he said. "Maybe Gazprom has paid too many of the bills and someone else is now willing to."