Russian industrial giants OAO Gazprom and OAO Norilsk Nickel are interested in bidding for the assets of the bankrupt oil company Yukos, a bankruptcy official said Wednesday.
Nikolai Lashkevich, spokesman for the Yukos court-appointed liquidator, said the Russian state-controlled gas monopoly and the world's biggest nickel producer were among those applying to bid. Last week, he said that US oil major Chevron Corp. had applied to participate in the as yet unscheduled bankruptcy auctions.
Lashkevich also said that independent gas producer Itera was interested in bidding.
He would not disclose the names of all the businesses that have so far applied, but he noted that it included a "large number of Western companies." OAO Yukos was bankrupted after the enforcement of US$28 billion ( 22 billion) in back-tax claims that some observers say were organized by the state to crush the political ambitions of company founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed for fraud and faces new money laundering charges that could see his sentence increased to 15 years from 8 years.
Yukos' biggest production unit was bought in Dec. 2004 by state-controlled oil group OAO Rosneft.
Now the company's bankruptcy supervisor is preparing for further sales: Production units with a capacity of some 470,000 barrels per day, as well as significant refining capacity, are expected to go on the block in an auction that analysts say will likely be dominated by Gazprom and Rosneft.
Chevron Chief Executive Dave O'Reilly refused to comment Tuesday on whether his company was interested in Yukos assets.
While Gazprom and Rosneft are thought to be targeting Yukos' main production and refining assets, Norilsk Nickel spokesman Viktor Borodin said the company had Yukos' research and development center in its sights to bolster its fledgling hydrogen energy division.
"It has highly qualified scientific staff. ... We are considering the use of this center in developing hydrogen energy," Borodin said. However, he noted that a decision to sell the center had yet to be made by the liquidators.
In June 2006, Norilsk Nickel bought 35 percent of US based Plug Power Inc., which produces equipment for hydrogen power engineering.