Mogul Fridman Sticks To BASF Oil Merger Despite Russia Sanctions

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By Tsvetana Paraskova

Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman continues to pursue the plans to merge the oil assets of his investment vehicle LetterOne with Wintershall Group, the oil and gas business of Germany’s chemicals company BASF, the tycoon said on Wednesday.

“As far as I know talks are ongoing,” Russian news agency Interfax quoted Fridman as saying. There’s no change and U.S. sanctions are not directly impacting talks, he added.

In November last year, BASF confirmed that it was in talks to potentially merge Wintershall with the oil and gas operations of Fridman’s LetterOne holding group in a deal that analysts valued at US$12.4 billion (10 billion euro).

A month later, in December, BASF and LetterOne signed a letter of intent to merge their respective oil and gas businesses in a joint venture that would operate under the name Wintershall DEA. The oil and gas business of LetterOne comprises DEA Deutsche Erdöl AG and its subsidiaries.

In January, DEA’s new chief executive Maria Moraeus Hanssen said that “Discussions towards a final agreement are ongoing” referring to the DEA-Wintershall merger.

Later in January, Fridman ended up on a U.S. Treasury watchlist of oligarchs and politicians, about which the Treasury stressed that “the inclusion of individuals or entities in any portion of the report does not impose sanctions on those individuals or entities. Nor does it create any other restrictions, prohibitions, or limitations on dealings with such persons by either U.S. or foreign persons.”

Fridman—who has made his fortune in oil, banking, and telecoms—had a net worth of US$13.8 billion as of April 11 and is #8 among the wealthiest Russian businessmen. The oligarchs list includes Russian individuals with an estimated net worth of US$1 billion or more.

After the list was announced, Fridman said that it was difficult to predict how this would affect his business ventures, but told reporters that “Based on the criteria of the report neither I nor my partners could have avoided inclusion.”

“We have been on the Forbes list for quite a long time,” he added.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury designated several Russian oligarchs and companies, but Fridman is not among them.

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