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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprombank Seen in Bid for Imperial

bloombergAn technician working at an Imperial Energy storage facility in Siberia. The firm's shares soared 15 percent Monday.
State-controlled Gazprombank is the mystery investor behind an unsolicited bid to buy a 25 percent stake in London-based oil producer Imperial Energy, The Sunday Times reported.

Shares in Imperial Energy, listed on London's Alternative Investment Market, soared 14.6 percent Monday on news of the bid.

The bank, Gazprom's financial arm, approached Imperial Energy with the offer last week, the newspaper reported. Merrill Lynch is advising Imperial Energy on the bid, The Sunday Times said, without citing any sources.

The investor has proposed listing additional shares to acquire 25 percent of the company, which has a current market capitalization of ?780 million ($1.6 billion).

Imperial Energy declined to comment on the identity of the bidder on Monday but said it was studying the offer. Gazprombank could not be reached for comment.

Imperial Energy has been locked in a battle with the Natural Resources Ministry since spring. It denies accusations that it overstated reserves and is lagging in production quotas.

The campaign against Imperial Energy, which operates mainly in the Tomsk region and Kazakhstan, has been led by Oleg Mitvol, the outspoken deputy head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental watchdog.

Mitvol's statements have frequently caused the company's shares to tumble, falling as far as 30 percent in one day in April when the watchdog first accused the oil producer of falsifying data in its reserves audit.

Buying the stake in Imperial Energy would do little to dent Gazprom financially, UralSib chief strategist Chris Weafer said. The firm could be seeking to "fill in strategic gaps, either for current operations or for future ones" through a potential bid, he said.