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By John Helmer in Moscow

According to the clinical experts, premature ejaculation is a common phenomenon that is most often caused by anxiety and overstimulation. One of the expert manuals suggests that psychological factors, such as guilt, may also be relevant. With time, the condition usually improves without formal treatment.

Pharmaceutical stimulants are known to remedy the physiological symptoms, speed up the cure, and protract effective performance. When it comes to the financial organs, though, on display in open share markets, there is no comparable treatment for repetitive promises of listings that are not consummated.

Sergei Frank, chief executive since 2004 of the Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot, has been promising to issue an initial public offering (IPO) of Sovcomflot shares for more than three years now. On April 2, 2007, Frank was quoted as telling the London Guardian he was planning an IPO that year. “We are committed to improving our financial disclosure, upgrading our corporate governance and ultimately benchmarking ourselves against the stock market,” Frank said.

Three years later almost to the day, Frank says he does not anticipate that the shipping company, Russia’s largest, will make the IPO until 2011. When and if it does, Frank added in an aside to reporters at a Moscow conference last week, “Sovcomflot and Novoship will not move to a single share.” The two companies were merged in late 2007, but continue to operate as independent brand-names. Five of Novoship’s 9-man board of directors are Sovcomflot appointees, including Frank.

Novoship’s chief executive, Igor Tonkovidov, is reported in the Moscow media as commenting on Frank’s latest remarks, implying that Sovcomflot’s revenues were so severely hurt last year by the fall in tanker rates, it is too soon to speak of a recovery, or of a share sale. According to Evgeny Shago, chief of analysis at Ingosstrakh-Investment, “Sovcomflot really should not rush into an IPO until 2011. Performance in 2010 will almost certainly be better [than last year].”

Just how bad last year was for Sovcomflot won’t be known for at least another month. In the meantime, Sovcomflot has issued a three-point financial summary claiming that, despite the collapse of earnings and profits in 2009, the financial results were good compared to Sovcomflot’s international rivals. No details have been posted on the company website, and the summary disclosure shows only revenues, which fell 25% from 2008 to $1.2 billion; earnings (Ebitda), reported to be $550 million, down 34%; and bottom-line profit of $216.8 million, down 47%.

No further details will be released, the company says, until after a board meeting on May 12.

This reporting delay by Sovcomflot, and the placement instead of the good-news advertorial in London, have drawn fire from Moscow maritime analysts. Alexei Bezborodov of Infranews has reported to industry clients that a comparison of financial indicators between Sovcomflot, with a fleet of 146 vessels, and rival Teekay Corporation of North America, with 148 vessels, omits to explain why Sovcomflot’s tanker fleet earned about a billion dollars less in revenues last year. Teekay issued 18 pages of its financial results for 2009 on March 4.

Doubt about Sovcomflot’s selective financial reporting, and the veracity of its audited accounts has surfaced in testimony in a UK High Court case under way since last October. Initiated by Frank against his predecessor Dmitry Skarga, the trial has exposed alleged manipulation of the company’s books and auditors over several years. By October next, perhaps as early as July, Justice Andrew Smith is likely to issue his verdict on the claims and counter-claims of fraud inside Sovcomflot. But until the court ruling, compliance checks by listing authorities and due diligence by the underwriters cannot be completed.

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