Russia

A stand-off between Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman and Ana Botin has ended with the Banco Santander SA chairman blinking first. Fridman’s hostile bid for struggling Spanish grocer Distribuidora Internacional de Alimentacion SA won shareholder approval earlier this month. But Santander, DIA’s second-biggest lender, objected to a related deal to recapitalize the company, a Bloomberg View reported. That refusenik stance threatened to trigger a default and wipe out Fridman’s equity within weeks of the takeover succeeding.

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Russia’s Antipinsky oil refinery said on Monday it had filed for bankruptcy, weeks after a London court ordered its assets be frozen in response to a lawsuit from a trading house, Reuters reported. The refinery, which has a capacity of 9 million tonnes per year, had halted operations on several occasions in recent months because of a lack of funds to pay for crude oil deliveries, according to industry sources.

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Bonds held by the European Central Bank could become unlikely collateral damage in a battle between Spain’s largest bank and a Russian billionaire over an almost-insolvent retailer, Bloomberg News reported. The ECB is among bondholders that may be forced to take losses as a condition for Banco Santander SA to let Mikhail Fridman’s LetterOne investment fund recapitalize Distribudora Internacional de Alimentacion SA. The Bank of Spain bought DIA’s notes in 2016 as part of the ECB’s corporate bond purchase program.

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The Commercial Court of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area has postponed a bankruptcy case against UTair airline until June 11, according to court records. In April, the air carrier said that it had cleared off a debt to the Financial Company Flash Light Capital, one of the applicants seeking bankruptcy of UTair, RAPSI recorded. In March, the court consolidated four bankruptcy petitions filed by the Financial Company Flash Light Capital, Hydropromenergostroy, Inter and Yugan-Union card companies against the airline into a single case.

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President Nicolas Maduro is funneling cashflow from Venezuelan oil sales through Russian state energy giant Rosneft as he seeks to evade U.S. sanctions designed to oust him from power, according to sources and documents reviewed by Reuters. The sales are the latest sign of the growing dependence of Venezuela’s cash-strapped government on Russia as the United States tightens a financial noose around Maduro, who it describes as a dictator, Reuters reported.

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Cyprus is weighing an early repayment for part of a 2.5 billion-euro ($2.8 billion) Russian loan that dates back to the low point of the financial crisis, two government officials said, after yields on the country’s 10-year debt hit a record low last week, Bloomberg News reported. While the government is seriously considering early repayment, no final decision has been made yet, said one of the officials, who asked not to be named citing the ongoing decision-making process.

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Russia’s Sberbank said on Wednesday it was committed to improving the performance of Croatian food group Fortenova following reports that it is already in talks to sell its newly acquired stake, Reuters reported. Agrokor, the largest firm in the Balkans with 52,000 staff, was put under state-run administration after it was consumed by debts built up during an ambitious expansion drive. On April 1 Agrokor changed its name to Fortenova Grupa and Sberbank, formerly the biggest creditor of Agrokor, is now the biggest single shareholder with a 39.2 percent stake.

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Russian steel and coal producer Mechel said on Thursday its 2018 core earnings fell 7 percent versus the previous year, with lower sales in the mining division only partly offset by higher coal prices, Reuters reported. Mechel, controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin, said its 2018 earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were at 75.67 billion roubles ($1.2 billion), down from 81.11 billion in 2017. Mechel, at one point on the brink of bankruptcy, has been in restructuring talks with its lenders for several years.

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The chaotic transition to capitalism in Russia and its neighbors triggered a flood of hundreds of billions of dollars out of the former Soviet Union. Torrents of cash were often routed through offshore zones with limited controls, making it difficult to tell the difference between legitimate business and illicit flows from criminal activity. Sometimes the suspect money made its way into prominent international banks.

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development may start discussions with the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) over its privatisation later this year, the EBRD’s manager in the South Caucasus country said. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev ordered in 2015 the privatisation of the oil-rich country’s biggest bank after a clean-up to get rid of distressed assets resulting from poor management, Reuters reported. Two years later the state-run IBA proposed a plan to restructure $3.3 billion of its debt, later receiving approval from creditors holding 93.9 percent of the affected debt.

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