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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investors Line Up for Yukos Assets

Itar-TassYukos Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko in the metro after his announcement.
Competition heated up for the foreign assets of shattered oil company Yukos on Thursday, while its board chairman hinted that a mystery investor could make a last minute offer to buy the company's billion-dollar debts as bankruptcy loomed.

Slovakia's government said it was mulling buying the company's 49 percent stake in the national pipeline operator Transpetrol, while a Yukos spokeswoman confirmed that the company also received a $105 million bid from state-controlled gas giant Gazprom for the stake.

Yukos' battered shares made their biggest advance in more than six years following the news, soaring by 50 percent to nearly 84 cents on Moscow's RTS exchange.

The Transpetrol stake is held by Yukos' Dutch-registered subsidiary and therefore does not fall under Russian bankruptcy hearings.

Yukos is expected to be formally declared bankrupt by a Russian court on Aug. 1 after a meeting of its creditors this week approved a report by the company's bankruptcy supervisor that said liabilities of $17 billion exceeded the value of its assets and recommended declaring it bankrupt.

Yukos denies that assessment and argues it can pay down its debts and continue as a viable company.

"The Slovakian government is trying to strengthen its position in Transpetrol and to buy 49 percent from Yukos," Interfax quoted a Slovakian Economics Ministry representative, Branislav Zvara, as saying.

Zvara said that there was a lot of interest in the sale, including from a U.S. investor, the agency reported. Slovakian Economics Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yukos confirmed that it was willing to sell the Transpetrol stake at a fair market price. "It is Yukos's understanding that the Slovakian government is still considering its position in relation to the sale of this stock holding by Yukos," spokeswoman Claire Davidson said by email.

Proceeds earned from Transpetrol's sale must be turned over to a Dutch court, which has granted Yukos' core shareholders creditor status -- meaning they can receive funds from the sale.

In Russia, Yukos creditors are dominated by the Russian tax service and state-controlled oil company Rosneft, which acquired Yukos' biggest unit -- Yuganskneftegaz -- after a disputed auction against the company's back tax bills in 2004.

Rosneft is expected to purchase more assets if the company is liquidated. A Russian court Thursday postponed a hearing into Rosneft's $8.4 billion claim against Yukos until Aug. 10, Interfax reported.

Meanwhile, Yukos' board chairman Viktor Gerashchenko said a fire sale of Yukos' remaining production and refining assets to state-controlled companies would be "idiocy."

He also raised the possibility of a last-minute offer for the company from a mysterious investor, though he provided no details. "I have been told that an organization has appeared that is prepared to buy the debts of Yukos and become the company's owner," Gerashchenko, a former Central Bank chief, told Ekho Moskvy radio. "It is too early to say 'finita la commedia."

Yukos spokeswoman Davidson said company management had received no information about a meeting at which the offer was made or with whom it was conducted.

Any offer would have to be reviewed and approved by Yukos' creditors, making a deal unlikely.

(AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, MT)