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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rosneft, Unitex to Bid for Tomskneft

Itar-TassYukos' Igolskoye field in the Tomsk region is part of Thursday's auction. The starting price for the lot is $6.4 billion.
Rosneft and Unitex, a mystery firm believed to have links to Gazprom, will go head-to-head on Thursday to compete for Yukos' east Siberian oil assets, in the penultimate auction to sell off the bankrupt oil company.

Yukos' court-appointed bankruptcy receiver set the starting price of the lot, which includes oil production units Tomskneft and East Siberian Oil Company, at 166.4 billion rubles ($6.4 billion).

Thursday's auction at Yukos headquarters will be followed a week later by the auction of Samaraneftegaz, Yukos' last remaining large oil unit.

Rosneft has emerged as the main beneficiary of Yukos' demise, starting with its purchase of Yuganskneftegaz, the firm's largest oil production unit, in December 2004.

Yukos acquisitions, as well as projects to develop new fields like Vankor, inside the Arctic Circle, have helped Rosneft leapfrog competitors and brought it to the verge of becoming the country's No. 1 oil producer.

Neft-Aktiv, a second-tier Rosneft subsidiary, will take part in the auction, Rosneft spokesman Nikolai Manvelov said Wednesday.

Unitex, a firm with ties to Gazprombank, has also registered to take part in the auction, Vedomosti reported Wednesday.

Nikolai Lashkevich, a spokesman for the bankruptcy receiver, declined to confirm or deny the report.

"All that matters is that the auction will take place," he said. "That means there will be two or more participants."

The auctions for Tomskneft and Samaraneftegaz were the last to be scheduled, leading some analysts to conclude that Gazprom and Rosneft had struggled until the last minute to decided how to divvy up the prize assets.

The two state-run firms have struck a deal that would see the auction winner hand the oil production units to Gazprom and the refineries to Rosneft, Vedomosti reported Wednesday, citing a source at a Gazprom subsidiary and a source at the bankruptcy receiver's office.

"Rosneft definitely wants both production units as part of its declared ambition to reach 2.5 million barrels per day quickly," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Alfa Bank, referring to Samaraneftegaz and Tomskneft. But the fact that the auctions for the assets were split in two "does suggest that a compromise has been reached, with one unit to each," he said.

Gazprom itself has not bid in any Yukos auctions thus far, and has been widely believed by analysts to be using proxy firms in a bid to avoid any legal backlash.

Yukos' former managers have likened the auctions to expropriation.

At the last major auction last month, Gazprom signed a call option with Eni and Enel to buy controlling stakes in two Yukos gas units as well as the 20 percent stake in its oil arm Gazprom Neft if the two Italian companies emerged victorious. Eni and Enel beat out a Rosneft subsidiary to win the lot.

Aton brokerage said in a research note that, if true, the deal could be a blow to Rosneft, since the company's stock price "reflects market expectations of Rosneft getting all the Yukos assets."

Vedomosti reported that Unitex is linked to Gazprombank through Viktor Korendyuk, former deputy head of the bank's strategic clients department, without providing further details. Unitex general director Alexander Basmanov also has ties to the bank, working also at Gazprombank subsidiary Gazkardservice, the report said.

Gazprom and Gazprombank could not be reached for comment Wednesday.