Sberbank, the top Russian state lender and major creditor of the two oil companies of billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, is against a plan by the tycoon to merge the firms and replace current shareholder Glencore, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing sources familiar with the idea.
Gutseriyev wants to merge the two firms, RussNeft and Neftisa, and replace Glencore as shareholder in RussNeft. A few years ago, Gutseriyev’s oil assets went through debt restructuring that split them into two.
The billionaire has built his oil assets and wealth with the help of Glencore, which currently holds 33 percent in RussNeft. The Gutseriyev family, on the other hand, owns 47 percent in RussNeft.
However, both RussNeft and Neftisa are heavily indebted to Sberbank and to Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB. The hefty debt is the reason why Sberbank opposes the merger plan, according to Reuters sources.
A part of that plan involves a new investor—possibly Chinese—buying Glencore’s 33-percent stake in RussNeft, the sources said, noting that the idea has not been yet discussed with oil and commodity trading firm.
“Gutseriyev is looking for another partner to replace it [Glencore], telling creditors that the Chinese will be there soon,” said one source familiar with the plan.
A source familiar with Glencore’s position told Reuters that the idea to merge Gutseriyev’s oil assets was not yet “concrete or serious enough”, confirming that such a plan has not been discussed with Glencore.
One source said that a merged and bigger company would be able to borrow more money. However, a deal could be complicated because both banks, Sberbank and VTB, hold stakes in RussNeft and Neftisa as collateral under loans worth billions of U.S. dollars.
“These two companies have different creditors so the merger is technically impossible,” one of the sources told Reuters, adding that no firm deal has been discussed.