Support The Moscow Times!

Gazprom in $3Bln Share Sale to Mystery Buyer

State-backed gas giant sells $3 billion of discounted shares to a single, unknown buyer.

Gazprom is Russia's most valuable company, with a market capitalization of almost $100 billion. Sergei Bobylev / TASS

Russian gas goliath Gazprom raked in $3 billion Friday selling shares to an unknown mystery buyer in an unconventional share deal.

Gazprom sold 3.6% of its own shares in a 188 billion ruble ($3 billion) deal, almost completing a share-offloading program announced in the summer by CEO Alexey Miller, the firm confirmed in submissions to the Moscow stock exchange.

Almost 500 investors applied to purchase the shares during a seven-hour window for bids Thursday. The sale concerns Gazprom’s so-called “quasi-Treasury” shares, which do not qualify for dividend payments.

Market submissions show the shares were sold at 220 rubles a piece — a 13.2% discount on Thursday’s closing market price.

The entire $3 billion worth of shares were bought by a single buyer.

Bloomberg and Russian business paper RBC reported that a similar sale of Gazprom shares in July that raised $2.2 billion went to a firm connected to oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, President Vladmir Putin’s former judo training partner. Rotenberg, whose firms have been long-time contractors for Gazprom, denied he was behind the purchase.

Regarding the fresh sale, one analyst told The Bell: “The market is again talking about Rotenberg” while another said it was “100% an inside deal.”

The speed of the secondary sale further suggests Gazprom already had an “anchor investor” lined-up, Alexander Losev, general director of Sputnik Capital Management said.

Gazprom hinted at a future share sale on Wednesday, launched the transaction on Thursday — giving investors only seven hours to lodge purchase applications during Moscow trading hours — and completed the $3 billion sale Friday. 

“As in July, there was no pre-marketing or large-scale distribution of information to a wide range of investors,” Losev said. “Therefore, we can conclude that there [were] anchor investors and the rest have little chance.”

Because both deals were for less than 5% of Gazprom’s total shares, the oil giant does not have to disclose the buyer to market regulators. If all shares had been sold in one deal to a single buyer, it would have been required to share their details.

“The most important takeaway from both placements is that new shareholders with a total 6.5% stake have appeared in the shareholder structure,” said analysts at Sberbank in a research note. 

“It is not certain whether these new investors are strategic, though an overall investment of $5.1 billion suggests that most likely they are.”

Gazprom shares have rallied by two-thirds this year, as the company hiked its planned dividend payments and reported growth in profits.

… we have a small favor to ask.

As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just 2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.


Read more