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By John Helmer in Moscow

The state-owned tanker company Sovcomflot will try to sell up to 20% of its shares in a public offering, the former board chairman Igor Shuvalov (pictured right) said yesterday. But the timing may be delayed if a UK High Court trial, focusing on the company’s internal affairs, goes against the management; this is now supervised by Sergei Naryshkin, the Kremlin chief of staff, who has replaced Shuvalov as chairman of the Sovcomflot board.

Shuvalov, a deputy prime minister in the Russian government, told a Bloomberg television interviewer yesterday that to claw back cash to offset the government’s deficit spending, a programme of privatization sales is being considered. Sovcomflot CEO Sergey Frank (pictured left) had proposed the share sale, and postponed it more than once before last year’s financial crash intervened. Before Frank took over the company, CEO Dmitry Skarga commissioned JP Morgan to advise on the placement of a 10% stake. According to Shuvalov, he would like to run the IPO before the end of this year.

The timing is awkward, however, because Frank and other Sovcomflot executives will be called to testify in the UK High Court, where a trial of Sovcomflot’s lawsuit against Skarga and others is scheduled to commence before Justice Andrew Smith on October 5.

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