MOSCOW, July 28 (RIA Novosti) Who will buy Yukos? / Tax service seeks access to individuals' credit histories / Shattered hopes of Russian Air Force
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MOSCOW, July 28 (RIA Novosti)
Who will buy Yukos?
On August 1, the Moscow Arbitration Court will examine the Yukos bankruptcy case. Creditors of embattled oil giant Yukos have advocated receivership proceedings and the sale of corporate assets. But Viktor Gerashchenko, chairman of the Yukos board of directors, said Thursday that bankruptcy could still be avoided, and a "wealthy investor" had offered to pay off all Yukos debts and to buy the company.
Gerashchenko said steps must be taken to ensure the consent of Yukos owners, who would otherwise get nothing. Gerashchenko's announcement caused a commotion on the market: Yukos' share price soared by 53.5% to reach 86 cents by the Thursday close of the RTS stock exchange.
Representatives of the company's Moscow and London offices said they knew nothing about potential buyers of a stake belonging to GML, formerly Group Menatep, Yukos' core shareholder.
Yukos receiver Eduard Rebgun also said he had heard nothing about such a deal. "Someone probably asked Gerashchenko's advice on the matter; technically speaking, an amicable settlement, including receivership proceedings, can be concluded anytime," Rebgun told the paper.
Steven Dashevsky, head of research at Aton Capital, said many companies, primarily state-owned oil and gas companies, may be willing to buy Yukos. But energy giant Gazprom and state-run oil company Rosneft said they have nothing to do with such a deal.
Rosneft spokesman Nikolai Manvelov said neither the company, its management, nor other vested interests are behind the deal.
A Gazpom manager said the company is interested in certain Yukos assets, and hopes to buy them prior to receivership. However, Gazprom is not interested in buying the company itself, he said.
A source close to the Rosneft board of directors said the reported deal is probably only speculation from a Yukos shareholder.
The Arbitration Court upheld $18.2 billion in claims by Yukos creditors; the main creditors are the Federal Tax Service with a $13.1 billion claim, and Rosneft and Yuganskneftegaz, a former Yukos production unit, with $4.52 billion.
All Yukos accounts and assets on Russian territory have been frozen; many top managers and co-owners have either been arrested or have left the country. Yukos earned 2.77 billion rubles ($103.2 million), according to Russian accounting standards (RSBU) in 2005, and suffered net losses of 95.4 billion rubles ($3.55 billion). GML controls 51% of Yukos shares through Yukos Universal and Hulley Enterprises. Veteran Petroleum, the Yukos pension fund, and Millhouse Capital, own 10% and 8.8% each.
Gerashchenko said three hedge funds also held a 24% stake in Yukos.
Tax service seeks access to individuals' credit histories
Russia's Federal Tax Service wants banks to supply it with regular information on the kind of credits supplied to individuals and what interest they pay monthly on their loans.
Tax authorities think this will help their drive against the receipt of salaries in envelopes or under "gray" schemes, or having undeclared incomes on which they pay no taxes. Bankers say this runs contrary to the law, but admit they would not refuse to answer specific questions.
The tax service, the paper said, is considering the possibility of obtaining lawful information from the central register of credit histories, which contains data on loans and their repayments by individuals.
It in fact shows a desire to reinstate monitoring of spending, which was earlier abolished in Russia. Between 2000 and 2004, the service tried to keep tabs on real estate, car, and securities purchases, but got snowed under with data on garden sheds and rusty old cars changing hands. Now the tax service seems to have decided to avoid past mistakes and, instead of disordered data, to obtain systematized information on the spending of one category of individuals, which is very promising in fiscal terms - recipients of mortgage and other credits.
To gain information on credit histories, the tax service will have to lobby some considerable changes to legislation. Mikhail Orlov, head of the State Duma's expert council on tax legislation, told the paper that the law on banks and banking obliges lending institutions to provide tax authorities only with information on deals made by legal entities and individuals, not ordinary citizens.
However, bankers acknowledge that tax authorities are in a position to obtain information on a borrower they are interested in. Roman Komarov, head of the tax monitoring department at BIN-Bank, said: "tax authorities, when making checks, sift through information on borrowers - up to accounting entries. If they become interested in particular credits, the bank is unlikely to refuse them, despite all legislation on banking secrecy."
Dmitry Yeropkin, president of Rossiisky Kredit Bank, said the tax service's initiative could harm the economy. "Household deposits in banks are more important than actual tax collections," the banker said.
In February 2006, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov announced government plans to give a second reinstate monitoring of individual spending. He said the cabinet was examining the possibility of going back to the monitoring mechanism as soon as a tax amnesty scheduled for next year is put in place.
Shattered hopes of Russian Air Force
Coming in the middle of a crucial test flight of what is said to be the great hope of all Russian Air Force trainee pilots, the crash on Wednesday night of a Yak-130 Mitten combat trainer in the Ryazan Region, to the southwest of the capital, may have far-reaching consequences for the Air Force.
At an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,000 feet) the test pilots had reported a problem with pitch control, and after trying in vain to put the aircraft on track, made sure the trainer was heading straight down and ejected safely at 3,000m. When the Emergency Situations Ministry rescue team arrived at the scene a few hours later and damped down the debris, the pilots were found, relatively unharmed, 200m from the plane.
The crash marks a major loss to the Defense Ministry and a blow to its decade-long promise to finally commission the Mitten planes, to replace the Soviet-era Czech-made L39 Albatross as the core pilot trainer. All operational trainers have already gone through repeated overhauls, and have not undergone decommissioning, in the hope of getting new Yaks soon.
Vladimir Mikhailov, the Russian Air Force commander, vowed in August 2003 that four Yak-130s were already "on their way to one of the Air Force schools."
"At first there will be a squadron, then an air regiment [an air wing], I think within 12 to 18 months," he said.
Since then, the military has largely failed to deliver on that promise. With L39s being scrapped on a large scale, future pilots will be left with no trainers at all for the short term, as the Wednesday accident yet has yet again put off their commissioning.