Kerimov crashes, Sberbank holds $9 bn share issue

Gazprom’s major shareholder, Suleiman Kerimov, is still recovering from a near fatal car crash in Nice, France last week. A business friend of Kerimov tells me the billionaire is in a stable condition in a Marseille hospital.

The business woman said Kerimov, a Duma deputy, was in much better shape after a car crash than media reports suggest. She said Kerimov had burns on less than 30 percent of his body, not 70 percent as Russian media reported.

Because of Kerimov’s accident, the state-owned Sberbank’s supervisory board postponed a decision on a share issue worth $8.7 billion. “No decision has been made – so far all that’s been decided is to examine more closely the proposed details, and that could be could be finalised within two weeks,” a finance ministry official said.

About 37 percent of Sberbank shares are in the hands of private investors, including billionaire Kerimov, who is believed to control about 6 percent of Sberbank shares through his investment firm Nafta Moskva, but he is not represented on the supervisory council.

The state, represented by the central bank, is a majority shareholder in Sberbank, creating a potential conflict of interests when the banking sector regulator is also owner of the largest bank.

In a report issued Monday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris called the expansion of Russian state ownership in general a “step back” for Russia’s economy.

“Of particular concern is the state-owned gas monopolist OAO Gazprom’s seemingly insatiable appetite for asset acquisitions, often at the expense of a focus on its core business,” the report said. “At the same time, the absence of any significant steps to restructure the gas industry as a whole constrains the growth of other producers even as concern about the sustainability of Russian gas supply is growing.”

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