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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Seen Selling Izvestia to Rossiya

MTGazprom's 51 percent of Izvestia includes its office building on Pushkin Square, thought to be worth $150 million.
Gazprom-Media has agreed to sell its stake in newspaper Izvestia to Bank Rossiya, according to a source within Gazprom.

Gazprom's media unit will sell 51 percent of the holding that controls Izvestia and its office building in central Moscow to Bank Rossiya's insurance unit, Sogaz, Kommersant cited an unidentified Gazprom official as saying.

Bank Rossiya's majority shareholder, Yury Kovalchuk, is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Kovalchuk already controls Ren-TV, once considered to be one of the country's more independent television channels, and media assets in St. Petersburg.

The deal will be implemented via the Sogaz insurance company under an option agreement with Gazprom-Media that ends in the middle of 2008, Kommersant said. Sogaz could acquire the daily for $25 million, the price Gazprom-Media paid for it in 2005, Kommersant said. The deal could be completed by February, a source inside Gazprom-Media said, the newspaper reported. Izvestia general director Pyotr Godlevsky declined to comment, referring questions to shareholders, Kommersant reported.

Far outstripping the value of the newspaper, however, is the Izvestia office on Pushkin Square, which is estimated to be worth more than $150 million.

Mediainvest, a fund believed to be affiliated with LUKoil, holds a 47 percent stake in Izvestia.

Bank Rossiya, which was set up in St. Petersburg by friends of Putin in the early 1990s, last year bought asset management fund Leader, which holds a 3 percent stake in Gazprom, Vedomosti reported. The bank bought an 81 percent stake in Sogaz, which handles Gazprom's insurance, in 2004, Vedomosti said.