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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Minority Shareholder Seeks to Liquidate Itera

Itera GroupSince 2001, Itera has been gradually stripped of its assets, which have been transferred to state-owned Gazprom.
A minority shareholder in independent gas producer Itera has filed suit in Cyprus seeking to liquidate the company over a purported illegal seizure of shares, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Olga Krutova accused company officials of pocketing millions of dollars through a scheme that saw her 3 percent share in Itera's Cyprus-registered subsidiary diluted to 1 percent without her consent, the newspaper reported, citing court documents.

A spokesman for Itera declined to comment Monday.

Krutova says she bought 3 percent of the Itera subsidiary in 2004, and when the firm tripled its equity capital in February 2006, that stake shrunk to 1 percent. The firm agreed at a shareholders' meeting to buy back part of its shares, but the stake was bought by a firm called Sweet Water, run by Itera board chairman Igor Makarov, Vedomosti said.

Makarov then sold a stake to Indian company Sun Group, pocketing $47.2 million, Krutova claimed in the suit filed with a court in the Cypriot city of Limassol, the paper said. The court is due to consider the case April 16.

Sun Group bought a 25.1 percent stake in Itera at the end of last year and industry insiders say a further change in ownership could be on the horizon.

Itera, once the country's largest independent gas producer with close ties to Gazprom, became a shadow of its former self after President Vladimir Putin appointed Alexei Miller as Gazprom CEO in 2001. It has since been stripped of its assets, which have been transferred to Gazprom. Gazprombank bought 51 percent in Sibneftegaz from Itera in 2006 for a knockdown price of $130 million.

Yet Itera remains the only gas producer with an independent export license. Makarov was in Turkmenistan last week to meet the country's new president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. Itera owns rights to a major gas field in the country through Zarit, a joint project with Zarubezhneft and Rosneft.