13 May 2007 - 10:35
  • News Code: 104481

Moscow: The curtain appears to have come down on the strange saga of the Yukos oil company, once Russia"s largest company, with a mystery firm called Prana bidding $3.9 billion to beat Russian state-controlled oil firm Rosneft for its remaining assets, including its head office. The hyper-inflated bid by Prana only served to add to the aura of mystery surrounding the entire Yukos affair.

The lot up for auction, apart from the head office, also included a trading unit that sources said might have access to oil inventories or cash. The trading unit is now the focus of attention as the likely reason for the high bid, for the price offered would otherwise make the firm"s headquarters one of the most expensive buildings in the world.


After 707 bids and counter-bids, the price topped 100 billion roubles ($3.88 billion), or four and a half times the 22.1 billion-rouble reserve price, forcing Rosneft to throw in the towel.


The bidding amounts for the 22-story Yukos headquarters building appeared unjustified, as the value of this, and several other buildings in the city center, would at the most have attracted a price of around $150 million. This has led to speculation that it was possible the bidders knew about the hidden value of another asset in the lot, in particular a Yukos trading house, which was also on offer along with the building.


It is now being speculated that the trading house in question, Yukos-M, held billions in cash, as it was always the profit center and cash flow handler for Yukos.


As for Prana, sources said that evidently it was a front firm. The company name as spelled in Russian is a yoga term and means the "breath of life." Russian media sources speculate that it may be fronting for Gazprom, the Russian natural gas company.


A few of Yukos"s smaller assets remain unsold but are expected to be liquidated before August 1 this year, the first anniversary of Yukos being declared bankrupt.



News Code 104481

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