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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chevron May Put in Bid for Yukos Assets

U.S. oil major Chevron is interested in bidding for several Yukos assets when the remains of the dismantled oil company go up for auction this year, a spokesman for Yukos' court-appointed bankruptcy manager said Friday.

"Chevron, among other large international companies, has expressed an interest in Yukos assets," said Nikolai Lashkevich, a spokesman for bankruptcy receiver Eduard Rebgun.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said Thursday that he had received an inquiry from a U.S. oil company expressing interest in bidding for Yukos.

Chevron and Gazprom's oil unit, Gazprom Neft, formed a joint venture in November. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the joint venture, Severnaya Taiga Neftegaz, would not bid for Yukos assets. Lashkevich said he had never heard of the company.

When asked about Lashkevich's comments, Chevron spokeswoman Irina Rybalchenko did not deny that Chevron would bid for Yukos assets. "Chevron continues to be engaged in looking at long-term investment opportunities in Russia's energy sector," she said, adding that the company did "not comment on discussions concerning merger and acquisition activities."

The joint venture with Gazprom is Chevron's first foray into Russian oil production.

Chevron expressed its interest in a letter to the bankruptcy receiver late last year, Lashkevich said. The bidding process would begin after an official announcement in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, he said, adding that he could not yet speculate when the process would begin.

Chevron said it was interested in "several assets," he said, declining to provide further details.

Chevron was one of the U.S. oil companies former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky was believed to be negotiating with on the sale of a Yukos stake before his arrest in October 2003.

Lashkevich would not name the other foreign firms that had expressed interest in the Yukos assets, which include refineries and two oil production units.

Gazprom is positioning itself as one of the main bidders for the Yukos assets, partnering up with foreign participants after its failed bid for Yuganskneftegaz, Yukos' main oil production unit, in December 2004. Gazprom was forced to withdraw its bid at the last minute after a legal challenge from a U.S. court and the unit went to Rosneft instead.

Rosneft is also hoping to bid on Yukos assets and is close to drawing on $24.5 billion in loans from a consortium of eight international banks.

Rebgun will sell off 193 assets in open auctions this year to meet Yukos' total liabilities, including back tax demands of $26.6 billion. He was appointed in March 2006 on the recommendation of Rosneft, which, along with the Federal Tax Service, is one of Yukos' main creditors.

Among the assets are two oil-production units, Samaraneftegaz and Tomskneft, which together produce about 470,000 barrels per day. The Yukos assets are estimated to be worth about $22 billion.

Also Friday, prosecutors for the first time detailed the new charges filed against Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev. The two men, who are already serving eight-year sentences for fraud and tax evasion, were charged last Monday with money laundering and embezzlement.

The Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement posted on its web site that the two men were accused of embezzling more than 850 billion rubles ($32 billion) from 1998 to 2003. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev took oil from Yuganskneftegaz, Samaraneftegaz and Tomskneft, and then resold the crude through Russian and offshore companies for three to four times the price, the statement said. The statement said two men were able to launder 450 billion rubles and $7.5 billion dollars, or a total of $24.5 billion.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, along with other associates, also stole shares in Yukos unit Eastern Oil Company in 1998, which caused "material damage" to the state, the statement said.

In the past, prosecutors have singled out Ratibor and Fargoil, two Yukos subsidiaries registered in tax havens inside Russia. The heads of those trading units have also been charged with money laundering and embezzlement, but the trial was delayed after former Fargoil president Antonio Valdes-Garcia fled police custody in January.

Alexei Golubovich, the former head of Yukos' strategic planning department, is widely believed to be a main witness in the trial. Golubovich returned to Russia in January, after fleeing the country in the wake of Khodorkovsky's arrest.