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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Neft Grabs 16% of Sibir Energy

Gazprom Neft bought a 16 percent stake in smaller oil producer Sibir Energy in a lightning offer that lasted just a few hours Thursday — a move seen as an opening for the company to take control of Sibir.

Gazprom Neft, the country's fifth-largest oil company, offered to pay ?5 ($7) per share for Sibir, a price that translates into ?309 million ($450 million) for a stake of that size.

TNK-BP, the country's third-largest oil producer, had put in a bid of ?4.3 a share for Sibir on Wednesday but withdrew it immediately after Gazprom Neft's entry.

The Moscow City government surfaced as another competitor for the stock Thursday when it announced that it was also negotiating with Sibir minority shareholders.

Gazprom Neft's output dropped by 7.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, a trend that would make control of Sibir — with its rising production — a perfect fit. City Hall, which already owns 18 percent of Sibir, is interested in increasing the stake to get a greater say in the operations of the Moscow Refinery, which the company owns jointly with Gazprom Neft.

Alexander Dyukov, chairman of Gazprom Neft, said the company was "pleased" to hold an interest in Sibir, which he described as a "world-class asset," according to a statement from Renaissance Capital, the investment bank representing the oil producer in the deal.

Gazprom Neft will likely try to increase the stake to more than 50 percent by buying from one of the major private Russian shareholders, Shalva Chigirinsky and Igor Kesayev, or from London's AIM stock exchange when the shares resume trading, VTB analyst Svetlana Grizan said.

Sibir suspended trading in its stock in February after it became known that Chigirinsky owed the company $325 million.

"Apparently, there is some chance to get a controlling stake," Grizan said. "Otherwise, it wouldn't make sense to fight for a minority position."

Like TNK-BP, Gazprom Neft was seeking to acquire a "significant" minority stake in Sibir, Renaissance Capital said in announcing the bid. Also like TNK-BP, Gazprom Neft had not approached the firm about the purchase before, Sibir said.

Sibir said a "party" that had contacted Sibir informally about a possible purchase lost interest in the deal after the bids by TNK-BP and Gazprom Neft.

Sibir didn't identify the party, and it was unclear whether it was referring to the Moscow government, whose property management chief Vladimir Silkin announced City Hall's plans to increase its stake in the company in a Kommersant article published Thursday.

In addition to a stake in the Moscow Refinery, Sibir owns half of Salym Petroleum Development, a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell that has been ramping up production at its Siberian field.