U.S. court keeps injunction in place as Lithuanians near refinery deal

  • 2006-05-10
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - A U.S. court has extended an injunction prohibiting the management of Russia's Yukos to sell its stake in Mazeikiu Nafta until May 19, further postponing the likelihood of a possible ownership change at the refinery, Lithuania's largest enterprise. According to reports, the court had ordered Yukos to submit all documents related with the sale process of the stake and hold yet another meeting of Yukos' temporary administrator and Western-based management to reach an out-of-court settlement. Lithuanian officials, meanwhile, forged ahead with a possible deal as soon as legal obstacles were removed.

"We are making arrangements for the transaction and will seek to implement it in this particular way 's via the purchase of shares from Yukos and their sale to a new investor," said Nerijus Eidukevicius, deputy minister of economy and a member of governmental task group for talks with Yukos. The government currently owns 40.66 percent of Mazeikiu Nafta and is trying to buy back Yukos' 53.7 percent stake for approximately $1.4 billion. If successful, authorities would then sell a 75 percent stake to another investor in a deal on which they expect to earn over 1 billion litas (300 million euros). The New York bankruptcy court has repeatedly postponed its decision over the lifting of interim measures, which have been in effect since April 13 and prohibit Yukos' management from selling any shares in Mazeikiu Nafta without the consent of the company's temporary administrator, who was appointed by a Russian court.

Still, Economy Minister Kestutis Dauksys said on May 4 that a deal on the Mazeikiu Nafta refinery could be finalized if the U.S. court lifted its injunction on Yukos owners to sell shares in the company or conclude a deal. "We are waiting for the New York court's decision and expect that it will possibly lift the ban on Yukos' management to sign an agreement on the sale and purchase of the shares. We would be ready to complete the deal very quickly," Dauksys told the Ziniu Radijas radio station on May 4. Saulius Specius confirmed the immediacy of a deal. "(The deal could occur) the next day if Yukos wants to," the daily Verslo Zinios quoted Specius as saying.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan's oil and gas company KazMunayGaz, which is widely seen as the most likely candidate to take over Mazeikiu Nafta, could team up with a partner to buy the Lithuanian oil refinery, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported. KazMunayGaz has been in talks with its partners and expects to submit a joint proposal to the government next week. Hypothetically the company's partner would help manage Mazeikiu Nafta and find alternative sources for oil supply. It was reported earlier this year that the Kazakhs would most probably seek partners in Europe. The Kazakh company has been regarded as a top contender to buy Mazeikiu Nafta. It submitted the second highest bid for a controlling stake in the refinery after Poland's PKN Orlen. According to Lietuvos Rytas, PKN Orlen bid $1.6 billion for the Yukos-held shares, while KazMunayGaz offered $1.2 billion.