“Feeding trough” for Tycher, “toy” for Miller: what will happen to “SG-Trans”?
One of the country’s largest transportation assets could be returned to Gazprom – and it’s good if the company hasn’t been gutted in the past four years.
Former adviser to the first vice-president of Russian Railways, the majority shareholder of the investment holding PJSC TransFin-M Alexey Taicher and his partner Sergey Smyslov withdrew from the capital of the LNG transportation company SG Transa.
Previously, the structure belonged to Gazprom, but was privatized, ending up in the hands of AFK Sistema, Vladimir Yevtushenkov.
The shares of Taicher and Smyslov were bought out by the Babayan brothers, the children of the scandalous former vice-president of Russian Railways. Considering how negatively the privatization of SG-Trans was perceived by large state players, including Gazprom, it is likely that the asset will eventually return to the gas monopoly, or even end up in the hands of people who are not strangers to Alexei Miller.
SG-Trans is one of the largest LNG transportation structures in Russia. In a sense, her work is strategic. It is all the more strange that in 2012 it suddenly fell under privatization. It seems that all this did not happen according to the scenario that Gazprom was counting on.
Perturbations with “SG-Trans” took place under the former Deputy Minister of Transport Vladimir Tokarev. True, then he was still acting. Minister of Regional Development, and previously headed Roszhedor. He must have been well acquainted with both Taicher and the Babaevs for a long time.
Now Tokarev is under investigation on charges of fraudulent embezzlement of about 400 million rubles when he was the first deputy director of Spetstransstroy LLC.
It is said that Tokarev could provide patronage to the owners of SG-Trans in obtaining large contracts from the railway monopoly. If this is true, then getting Tokarev behind bars could confuse the owners of the company with all plans.
“Trans” on the “Rail” and Yevtushenkov’s interest
SG-Trans is the largest owner of rolling stock in the Russian Federation for the transportation of liquefied petroleum gases and light hydrocarbons. Considering how heavily our economy is tied to gas exports, this is a real gold mine. The structure is fairly contracted with Russian Railways, it acted as a contractor for JSC in the complex reconstruction of a number of sections of railways.
The total volume of state contracts of the company is almost 760 million rubles. The largest – for 300 million rubles with Russian Railways logistics. This is a tasty piece of the pie, especially now, when gas supplies through pipelines are complicated due to the geopolitical situation.
The privatization of the structure looked all the more strange from the point of view of the state. Now 100% of SG-Trans is owned by Vector Rail JSC. Taicher and Smyslov had a 58.25% stake in Vector Rail, according to company data disclosed in preparation for a bond issue in 2021. According to some reports, they have 63% of the shares.
More precisely, it was. These shares were bought out by other members of Vector Rail, the brothers Timur and Ruslan Babaev, as well as several top managers and investment funds. The amount of the transaction was not disclosed, but these people clearly have money.
The structure was privatized in 2012. AFK Sistema, the scandalous oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov, became the owner of 100% of the shares. He attracted investors to the asset, reducing the share of Sistema to 50%. Thus, the Vector Rail of Tycher and Co. ended up with half.
At the same time, a large asset was spun off from SG-Trans – SG-Trading, which owns more than 60 gas filling stations in 20 regions of Russia and 11 liquefied gas storage bases with a total capacity of 5.3 thousand tons.
Vladimir Yevtushenkov gave this wonderful business to another scandalous oligarch – Ukrainian businessman Sergei Kurchenko, who fled Ukraine after all the well-known events, and was considered almost the holder of the former assets of the country’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.
The Moscow Post about this man, suggesting that at some point under his control – formally and informally, there could be large assets for the extraction and transshipment of minerals in the Donbass. Thus, the “deriban” of the privatized SG-Trans began under Yevtushenkov.
Recall that in 2012 the privatization of SG-Trans was accompanied by a big scandal. One of the largest Russian oil companies tried to challenge the results of the auction in court, but to no avail. Perhaps Yevtushenkov decided to withdraw from the asset, so as not to acquire new ill-wishers, whom he already has enough.
Now the company does look much more attractive than then: if in 2014 the profit of SG-Trans was 834 million rubles, then by the end of 2022 it is already 5.7 billion rubles. Is that the motive for Gazprom to “play back”? Yes, and Yevtushenkov may no longer be happy that he left the structure in 2019. Given that after the start of the SVO, he buys up everything that is bad, he could have an interest in the shares of Taicher that ended up with the Babaevs.
Babaevs lean on wine
It is unlikely that anyone was surprised that in the end, “SG-Trans” went to people associated with Salman Babaev – we are talking about his sons Timur and Ruslan. After all, in 2010-2017, Babaev Sr. was vice president of Russian Railways for commercial activities. With the same Taicher, he had to work since the mid-2000s.
But, for some reason, no one saw any conflict of interest in this situation. Meanwhile, Salman Babayev could have contributed significantly to getting the asset into the right hands back in 2012 – up to a possible agreement that, having “held” and “used” the asset, Yevtushenkov would “share” it with the manager’s family.
At the same time, the FAS was initially against the sale of Sistema’s stake in AFK in favor of Vector Rail! And just on the grounds that Timur and Ruslan Babaev are behind the company, whose dad worked for Russian Railways for so many years.
But in the end, permission was obtained – there were rumors on the market that Babaev Sr. allegedly tried, as well as Oleg Belozerov, his then boss, who could also be interested in selling the asset in favor of Babaev’s sons. Out of the goodness of your heart?
Enough scandals are connected with Babaev Sr. himself. The Babaevs are from Dagestan and are active there. Their wine assets are also located there – recently Babaev Sr. has become very interested in the production and sale of alcohol.
Earlier, The Moscow Post suggested that Salman Babaev might be interested in closing the Astrakhan seaport in order to load another Astrakhan port, Olya, with its volumes. And Olga should be reassigned to Makhachkala, where the Babaevs have strong connections.
Salman Babayev has done his job: while the children are “spudding” state contracts from Russian Railways, is he engaged in the wine business? Photo: https://ar2016.rzd.ru/en/corporate-governance/executive-board/members
It was said that the Babaevs could even invest in Olya through LLC Southern Transnational Company Sea Trade Port Olya, which took long-term lease of access roads and railway lines at the berths.
His participation in the project contributed to the fact that significant freight flows from Russian Railways could turn there, and, according to journalists, the railway set the rates for delivery to Olya by $ 2 more than to Astrakhan.
At the same time, the Sea Trade Port of Olya was suing the tax office – the claims from the latter were serious – for hundreds of millions of rubles. Perhaps money should not be sought from the formal owners of Olya?
Among others, today behind the Babaevs is the Derbent Wine Company (DVK), which in September 2022, together with the infamous distributor of alcoholic products Ladoga, announced the start of production of an “exclusive line” of still and sparkling wines “Vento del Caspio”. It is noteworthy that Ladoga was categorically against the parallel import of wines after the introduction of draconian sanctions against the Russian Federation. They clearly do not need competition, and the rise in prices, apparently, only pleases them – people drank and will continue to drink.
DVK is now announcing plans to build a new plant in Derbent. But where to get the money from is not clear – at the end of 2021, the company received a ridiculous profit of 2.4 million rubles on revenue of 402.5 million rubles. Apparently, we can talk about the desire to collect a bunch of loans in state banks. Or will dividends from SG-Trans help?
Each Taicher gets a TransFinat”?
However, it seems that both the Babaevs and the same Taicher have long since received theirs, to say the least. But appetite comes with eating. Alexei Taicher’s main asset remains TransFin-M, one of the largest leasing companies in the country. Taicher acquired it in 2019 through his TFM-guarantor, where he had 70%.
TranFin-M is a former structure of Russian Railways. And again – the largest subsidiaries of the state monopolist are in the hands of people who are not far from Russian Railways. At the same time, it was on the balance sheet of the non-state pension fund of Russian Railways “Welfare”, which then ended up in the hands of VEB.RF, led by Igor Shuvalov, another regular hero of our publications.
A few years later, a major scandal erupted at TransFin-M. In Moscow, the ex-head of the company Dmitry Zotov was detained. Subsequently, the firm tried to dissociate itself from Zotov. They said that he could steal over 1.1 billion rubles from the company through organizations controlled by him. Interfax writes about it.
Tycher’s representatives claimed that the possible crime took place in 2017-2018, when Tycher was not there and nearby. Allegedly, the scheme looked like this: an agreement was reached between TransFin-M and one large company on the sale of property. As a result, the deal was not carried out directly with the seller, but through embedded companies that were allegedly controlled by Zotov.
Even so, even then Zotov could act in the interests of the same Taicher. At the same time, Salman Babayev was still at the Russian Railways, and the former Deputy Minister of Transport Vladimir Tokarev mentioned at the beginning was the Deputy Minister of Transport.
Today the company has a portfolio of government orders of 1.6 billion rubles. And at the same time, it can be wiser with financial statements. Something strange is going on there. At the end of 2022, the structure received 16 billion rubles in revenue. And at the same time profit in the amount of 19 billion rubles. Over the past few years, revenue has been falling, while profits have been growing. What does it mean? Apparently, the company is literally pumped up with assets and loans. And this does not bode well for her or for the domestic leasing market.
Earlier, Aleksey Taicher led another major subsidiary of Russian Railways – the Federal Freight Company, which also turned out to be involved in many controversial situations.
Taicher and his former boss, Oleg Belozerov, were tried to attribute possible patronage to Alexander Nesis’ United Carriage Building Company. At first FGK Taichera bought railcars from Uralvagonzavod. However, then “sharply” began to buy from Nesis, even if at a higher price.
Another scandal with FGK was connected with the Sverdlovsk region. Earlier, a number of State Duma deputies suggested that the FGK could violate its obligations to the government of this region, having previously received significant preferences.
For example, the company received serious benefits on property tax. The amount of benefits from the regional budget in 2018 alone amounted to about 600 million rubles. In response, the company was supposed to create up to 300 new jobs. However, instead, the company began to employ employees of other enterprises.
At the same time, according to rumors, this was done without the knowledge of these people themselves. As a result, the Sverdlovsk region could lose up to one and a half billion rubles in taxes in a few years. In addition, there have been incidents. As TASS wrote, at one of the enterprises there was a derailment of wagons. And the culprit of the accident allegedly did not even suspect that he was officially employed in the FGK.
Alexey Taicher. Photo: hzikhidtidekrt https://poisk-po-photo.ru/aleksey-taicher-investor
Taicher’s activity does not exhaust all this. But one gets the impression that he and his partners, including the Babaevs, could confuse a personal pocket with a state one. And, given the sharp increase in the “quotations” of SG-Trans (LNG transportation is growing), this pocket could appeal not only to them. Whether he stays with the Babayevs, whether he returns to Gazprom or Yevtushenkov, it is quite clear that letting such people into assets of strategic importance, to put it mildly, is not very reasonable.