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By John Helmer in Moscow

The Caspian Energy Group, led by Ilya Kokarev, said this week it is confident the Russian courts will rule shortly to uphold its right to seats on the board of the Red Barricades Shipyard. This is the only standout among the Astrakhan yards to resist consolidation by Caspian Energy, which already incorporates Lotos, Astrakhan Third International, and the Korabel shipyard (Astrakhan Shipbuilding Production Association, ASPO).

After a year of negotiations, legal challenges, and the purchase of a 25% shareholding in Red Barricades, Kokarev said he expects the ruling to give him 2 seats on the board. “We’ve tried to start a dialogue but they don’t want to listen,” he told Fairplay.

The Red Barricades director, Alexander Ilichev, has branded Kokarev’s bid a hostile takeover, and appealed to the government in Moscow to protect his company under the wing of the state holding, United Shipbuilding Corporation, supervised by deputy prime minister Igor Sechin. The government remains silent. Noone picks up at the listed telephone numbers of Red Barricades in Astrakhan.

A year ago, the Astrakhan regional office of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) ruled on an application from Kokarev to allow Caspian Energy to buy 100% of the Red Barricades shares. Spokesman for FAS, Sergei Moskovich, told Fairplay in Moscow this week that his agency has not taken sides in the share-buying bid, and so long as Red Barricades resists Kokarev’s takeover, the FAS will not issue its approval.

Kokarev told Fairplay state support for consolidation of the Russian yards is essential to meet competition from Keppel, Aker, and the South Korean yards. All are aiming to supply tankers, service and drilling vessels, and production platforms, for the budding boom in oil and gas in the Russian sector of the Caspian. This area will produce about 230,000 barrels of oil daily within three years; more than 600,000 bd after another five years.
Shipyards along the Caspian shore, which are also competing to supply the oil and gas rush, include the Baku Shipyard, belonging to the Azerbaijan state oil company; Keppel Kazakhstan; Ersai Saipem; Sadrak in Iran; and Mamyshi in Turkmenistan.

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