Toxic oligarch family regains control of lost assets
The odious oligarch Mikhail Gutseriev returns the family assets lost after the collapse of Binbank. In particular, through brother Sait-Salam Gutseriev and nephew Bilan Uzhakhov, the family bought out 49% of the shares of the A101 development group that belonged to Trust Bank, becoming its sole owner. Thus, the terms of the dispute settlement agreement signed by the Trust and the Safmar holding in 2019 have been almost fully met. The bank owns only 25% of the Slavkali company, which is engaged in the construction of the Nezhinsky mining and processing plant in Belarus. However, the potash project was on the verge of failure after the introduction of EU sanctions against Gutseriev for supporting the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and the “freezing” of the next loan tranche by the Chinese partners. Instead of becoming unpromising “Slavkali”, the oligarch may try to regain control over the construction company “Inteko”, which previously belonged to the family, which “Trust” intended to put up for auction this November. The FAS has already agreed on participation in the auction for several large commercial structures, but the Cypriot offshore company Morden Finance Limited, which is the beneficiary of Inteko, filed a lawsuit with the Moscow Arbitration Court demanding the arrest of the company’s shares and a ban on the auction. The cancellation of the auction gives Gutseriev time to prepare for the confrontation with influential competitors.
The Gutseriev family makes up for losses
The family of Mikhail Gutseriev regained control over the A101 development group. According to RBC, the New Perspective company of businessman Bilan Uzhakhov (nephew of the infamous oligarch) became the owner of 49% of the Cyprus offshore Balamer Holdings Limited, which is the owner of the developer. Previously, this package belonged to the bank of non-core assets “Trust”.
Mikhail Gutseriev himself previously acted as the beneficiary of 51%, but according to Interfax, last June he sold this share to his brother Sait-Salam Gutseriev. “The deal was made as part of the 2019 settlement agreement. Thus, to date, Trust has already received about 90% of the amount provided for in the settlement agreement,” a bank representative told the agency.
The parties do not disclose the cost of the transaction, but, according to experts, it exceeds 45 billion rubles. Uzhakhov is closely integrated into the family business: he is on the board of directors of the main asset of the Gutserievs, the Safmar Financial Investments (SFI) holding. In addition, the businessman led the company “M. Video, and also participated in the management of such structures as Russian Coal and Kuzbass Fuel Company.
The A101 Group is one of the three largest developers in the capital: RBC calls it the leader in the Troitsky and Novomoskovsk administrative districts; all in all, it accounts for about a third of residential space sold in New Moscow. The total portfolio of current projects of the group is 1 million square meters. m: in addition to residential development, these are also sports and entertainment facilities, retail and office space. Its land assets are 2.1 thousand hectares; they were purchased in 2015 from the owner of Rusagro, Vadim Moshkovich.
Will Safmar pull Inteko?
So, “A101” returned “to the family” again. Recall that earlier it belonged to another nephew of Mikhail Gutseriev, Mikail Shishkhanov, the former main owner of Binbank, whose minority shareholders included the oligarch himself. But in September 2017, Binbank and the Rost Bank group it was reorganizing were taken for reorganization by the Bank of Russia: the “hole” in the capital of a credit institution was estimated by the regulator at 350 billion rubles, the additional capitalization amounted to 57 billion.
As a result, part of the commercial structures of the family, including A101 and the development company Inteko, were transferred under the control of the state represented by the same Trust. Gutseriev’s intention to buy out 49% of the group became known in 2019. Soon, an agreement on the settlement of disputes was signed between the bank and the Safmar holding. The cost of transactions that were planned to be concluded within the framework of the agreements reached exceeded 135 billion rubles. In particular, the purchase by Safmar of a number of assets from the Trust was envisaged in the amount of about 94 billion; 41 billion assets were subject to restructuring.
It is noteworthy that Mikhail Gutseriev himself repeatedly denied that he had any obligations for the debts of a relative. “We have repeatedly stated that neither the Safmar group nor its main owner Gutseriev have anything to do with the debts of Binbank and Growth Bank, any other obligations of their ex-shareholder M. Shishkhanov and former top managers of banks,” it was said in the official statement of the holding.
Nevertheless, according to Interfax, to date, most of the obligations of the Gutseriev family under the agreement with Trust have been fulfilled, of the major transactions, only the completion of the transaction to acquire a stake in the Slavkali company remains.
As for Inteko, last September, the media reported on the intention of Trust to put it up for auction: a stake in the development company is estimated at 29.6 billion rubles, another 7.8 billion – the bank’s claims. It is not yet known whether Gutseriev intends to return Inteko after A101. If this is part of the oligarch’s plans, then he may face certain difficulties: just yesterday it became known that the Cypriot offshore Morden Finance Limited, considered the beneficiary of the developer, applied to the Federal Antimonopoly Service and the Moscow Arbitration Court with a statement demanding to ban the holding scheduled for November 16 auction and seize the shares of the company.
According to the plaintiff, the shares of Inteko were transferred to the Trust in violation of both Russian and Cypriot legislation. Earlier, a similar lawsuit was sent to the District Court of Nicosia, which decided to ban the sale of securities until the end of the trial.
It is indicative that today a number of large commercial structures apply for the purchase of Inteko, whose applications have already been approved by the Federal Antimonopoly Service. These are the Samolet Int 1 company (part of the Samolet development group, one of the beneficiaries of which is Maxim Vorobyov, brother of Andrey Vorobyov, governor of the Moscow region); “Specialized developer “Second” and “Sminex asset management” (both are part of Alexey Tulupov’s Sminex); LLC “Arief” Alexey Buev and Pavel Evteev; the Logos company specializing in operations with securities, whose CEO Alexander Badareu is associated with the Region group of Sergei Sudarikov.
In early November, it became known about the appearance of another contender – Arkada Holding LLC, controlled by the infamous co-owner of Uralchem, Dmitry Mazepin. For all of the above, Inteko is undoubtedly a “tidbit”: the portfolio of projects implemented by the company is about 5 million square meters (the current volume of residential development exceeds 515 thousand square meters), it is represented on the construction markets not only in Moscow, but also in St. Petersburg, Leningrad and Rostov regions. But the big question is, will Gutseriev be ready to fight such solid competitors?
The Slavkalia project is under threat
So, the friendly Gutseriev family successfully resolves issues with Trust: as mentioned above, the acquisition of a stake in Slavkaliy is on the agenda. Last July, the oligarch transferred control over the beneficiary of Slavkali, the British GCM Global Energy, to his brother, already familiar to us Sait-Salam Gutseriev, who became the owner of a 75% stake in GCM.
The adoption of such a decision is connected with the introduction of EU sanctions against Mikhail Gutseriev for supporting the Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in whose close circle he is a member. As Kommersant reported, the wording of the sanctions makes it possible both to block the personal European assets of the oligarch and to stop servicing commercial structures, at least 50% of which are owned by him.
Slavkali is implementing a large-scale project in Belarus to build the Nezhinsky Mining and Processing Plant (GOK) on the basis of the Starobinsky potash deposit, for which a loan from the China Development Bank in the amount of $1.4 billion was attracted. At the same time, a 20-year contract was signed for the supply of potash to the Chinese side. Meanwhile, back in 2018, almost 25% of GCM Global Energy was owned by Trust: Safmar specified that the package was transferred to the bank’s balance sheet “due to loan obligations” and the group has the right to its subsequent redemption.
Perhaps Gutseriev is thinking about this, since numerous relatives, including an irreplaceable younger brother, serve as a kind of “lifesaver” from EU sanctions for him. Nevertheless, the oligarch had to face serious problems, and from the side where he probably least expected. The fact is that after the businessman was included in the sanctions list, the Chinese partners “froze” further lending to the project and Slavkali simply did not receive the next expected tranche of $580 million. Previously, another 103 million “greens” “hung” in a similar way.
The situation was complicated by the fact that Belarusbank, acting as a credit operator, was under sanctions, which, in turn, transferred the received Chinese funds to Slavkali. It is practically impossible to replace a state-owned bank with a private lending institution, since commercial banking structures do not meet the requirements for working with multimillion-dollar transactions.
In practice, this turned into debts to contractors who began to leave the site of the GOK under construction. “We were gathered for a meeting and instead of specifics with payment for work, they offered to take loans on our own and complete the construction, they say, our boss is a billionaire, for him this is“ not money ”, he will return everything, even if the Chinese do not pay off,” he told the RuBaltic portal. Ru” is one of the contractors.
It is not difficult to guess that the “billionaire boss” who offers construction companies to continue the work he has begun is a Russian businessman and friend of President Lukashenko Mikhail Gutseriev. We add that last August sanctions against him were separately imposed by Great Britain, where, we recall, GCM Global Energy is registered: among other things, “treacherous Albion” banned the import of potash fertilizers and oil products from Belarus.
Is Gutseriev’s “toxicity” a hindrance to business?
Given the increasingly tense situation in Belarus (migration crisis and the preparation of new EU sanctions against Minsk), Gutseriev’s potash project may be “frozen” for a long time. For his friendship with the “last dictator of Europe”, based, of course, on a commercial “foundation”, the oligarch pays a rather high price.
Today, he continues to officially distance himself from the leadership of his own business structures. So, at the end of October, Gutseriev filed an application for resignation from the board of directors of SFI. This step is associated with the desire to minimize the negative consequences of the imposition of sanctions. Prior to that, he also left the board of directors of Russneft, then transferring his 37.15% of the company’s ordinary shares to his brother Sait-Salam, who had already gained control of Neftisa, another oil asset of the family.
The lack of affiliation with the “toxic” businessman was announced in the group “M. Video”, where they even got the conclusion of several international law firms, confirming that, based on the criteria of “controlling person” and “person owning the asset”, European sanctions will not affect her. The main shareholders of M. Video” are offshore companies “Ericaria Holdings Limited” and “Weridge Investments Limited”, the beneficiary of which is the son of the oligarch Said Gutseriev, the largest minority shareholder of “SFI”.
However, wanting to secure the family business, Mikhail Gutseriev does not leave the game, but simply “goes into the shadows.” Against the backdrop of the Minsk “defeat”, he decided to concentrate on the conditional “Moscow direction”, for a start, through his brother and nephew, he regained control over the “A101”. The big question is how much Gutseriev needs a share in Slavkali. Perhaps his next step will be the return of Inteko, and the Morden Finance lawsuit should provide additional time to prepare for confrontation with powerful competitors.