Russia announced one of its biggest privatizations since the 1990s, selling a 19.5 percent stake in its giant oil company Rosneft, after a month it still isn’t possible to figure out from public records the full identities of those who bought it.
The stake was sold for 10.2 billion euros to a Singapore investment vehicle that Rosneft said was a 50/50 joint venture between Qatar and the Swiss oil trading firm Glencore.
Unveiling the deal at a televised meeting with Rosneft’s boss Igor Sechin on Dec. 7, President Vladimir Putin called it a sign of international faith in Russia, despite U.S. and EU financial sanctions on Russian firms including Rosneft.
According to Reuters it was also one of the biggest transfers of state property into private hands since the early post-Soviet years, when allies of President Boris Yeltsin took control of state firms and became billionaires overnight.
Relevant information about the deal either have not been disclosed, cannot be determined solely from public records, or appear to contradict the straightforward official account of the stake being split 50/50 by Glencore and the Qataris.
For one: Glencore contributed only 300 million euros of equity to the deal, less than 3 percent of the purchase price, which it said in a statement on Dec. 10 had bought it an “indirect equity interest” limited to just 0.54 percent of Rosneft.
In addition, public records show the ownership structure of the stake ultimately includes a Cayman Islands company whose beneficial owners cannot be traced.
And while Italian bank Intesa SanPaolo leant the Singapore vehicle 5.2 billion euros to fund the deal, and Qatar put in 2.5 billion, the sources of funding for nearly a quarter of the purchase price have not been disclosed by any of the parties.
“The main question in relation to this transaction, as ever, still sounds like this: Who is the real buyer of a 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft?” Sergey Aleksashenko, a former deputy head of Russia’s central bank, wrote in a blog last week.
Glencore would not comment on the identity of the Cayman Islands firm or give a further explanation of how ownership of the 19.5 percent stake was divided.
The Qatari Investment Authority said it would not comment on the deal, beyond confirming that it has participated in it.
Rosneft declined to respond to questions posed by Reuters, including a request for comment on how ownership of the 19.5 percent stake was divided, information about the buyer.