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WILL YUGANSKNEFTEGAZ BE SOLD TO GAZPROM?
MOSCOW, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - Experts are becoming increasingly certain that the gas giant Gazprom will acquire Yuganskneftegaz, the embattled Yukos' main production unit.
The experts surveyed by RIA Novosti said Yuganskneftegaz will be sold to Gazprom rather than Surgutneftegaz, even though Surgutneftgaz has enough available funds.
Anatoly Kaplin, an expert at Aton investment, said the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's statement that Gazprom subsidiaries would not be barred from the auction meant that Yuganskneftegaz would be sold to Gazprom.
"We can say with a great degree of certainty that Gazprom will take part in and win the auction for Yukos' main production 'daughter,'" said Mr. Kaplin.
He said demand for Gazprom shares rose an hour before the information was released.
Nikolai Podlevsky, an expert at Zerich, also said that Gazprom would be chosen as the new owner of Yuganskneftegaz.
"Speculations and rumors that Gazprom will be the most likely purchaser of Yuganskneftegaz are gradually spreading throughout society," he said.
Mr. Podlevsky said an intensive examination of the markets' reaction to the statement about Yukos apparently meant that the decisions on the sale of the company have been made and will be made public shortly.
Mr. Podlevsky said that speculating about who would purchase Yuganskneftegaz had become the favorite pastime of experts.
According to him, despite the scandal surrounding the upcoming sale and the subsequent disputes with Yukos' owners and minority shareholders, the sale will undoubtedly be a lucrative deal for the buyer given Yukos' overall tax arrears.
Stanislav Kleshchev, an expert at Financial Bridge, reiterated what his colleagues said: Yuganskneftegaz will apparently be sold to Gazprom.
"Judging by the flow of unambiguous information," he said, "Yuganskneftegaz will go to Gazprom."
Mr. Kleshchev said that news that the oil producer would be sold to the gas concern hurt Surgutneftegaz, as it had the available funds to purchase the Yuganskneftegaz shares, which was why it was named as a possible buyer.
However, Gazprom said it did not intend to buy the oil company.
"We are not considering purchasing the Yukos assets," Gazprom head Alexei Miller said. "Such a deal has not been included in the draft budget and the investment program for 2005."
Other major oil companies also said they did not plan to take part in the auction for Yuganskneftegaz.
Surgutneftegaz chief Vladimir Bogdanov said that Surgutneftgaz was not considering participating in the auction.
"We have not seen an official statement about the auction or Yuganskneftegaz valuation," said Mr. Bogdanov. He added that the company's management had not discussed the matter yet.
"We do not discuss assets that are not for sale, at least at the moment," LUKoil chief Vagit Alekperov said.
Mikhail Fridman, TNK-BP chairman, also said that TNK-BP would not buy the Yukos assets.
"We are happy with what we have," said Mr. Fridman. "Buying [Yukos] assets is not in our shareholders' interests."