CAT denies LUKOIL ownership

As CATOil, an Austria-based oil and gas services company, prepared for its initial public offering in May 2006, the son of a late LUKoil executive repeated his claim that the company is owned by current and former LUKoil managers.

CATOil, which works in Russia and Kazakhstan, denied the claim Tuesday, and a company spokesman, Lutz Golsch, said it was owned by two non-Russians — Walter Hoeft and Anna Brinkmann. Brinkmann once served as a translator to Vitaly Schmidt, the late LUKOIL executive.

The eleventh-hour acknowledgment — which was also released by the IPO’s managers as an appendix to the IPO prospectus — means that investors committed to buy shares in the Thursday float can now pull out.

CATOil plans to float a 40 percent stake and hopes to raise 244 million euros to 293 million euros, Golsch said.

It was unclear whether the claim would affect the IPO, but people familiar with the mood of investors in Frankfurt predicted it would have little impact.

LUKoil declined to comment.

Schmidt’s son, Vadim, believes CATOil’s owners include LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov; Semyon Vainshtok, a former senior LUKoil executive and current head of pipeline monopoly Transneft; and Ralif Safin, a former top executive at LUKoil, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Vadim Schmidt, who is caught in an inheritance battle with LUKoil, made the claim in a letter to Dresdner Kleinworth Wasserstein, the managers for the IPO.

CATOil, which specializes in hydraulic fracturing, makes little secret of having links to LUKoil, and it says on its web site that it works with the oil major. It names as its other clients TNK-BP, state-owned Rosneft and Kazakhstan’s KazMunaiGaz.

Vadim Schmidt’s legal battles with LUKoil have been going through courts across Europe since shortly after Vitaly Schmidt’s sudden and unexplained death at the age of 47 in 1997. Vadim Schmidt, 28, has been trying to reclaim what he believes was his father’s share in various offshore vehicles that he says were set up on behalf of LUKoil owners.

German prosecutors at one point opened an investigation to verify whether Brinkmann had transferred a stake owned by Vitaly Schmidt to another shareholder without Shmidt’s consent, The Wall Street Journal said. The investigation was closed in 2004, and no charges followed.

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