Decision on Makpetrol takeover delayed as buyer's link to ex-Ukrainian president revealed

Decision on Makpetrol takeover delayed as buyer's link to ex-Ukrainian president revealed
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje July 19, 2016

Macedonia’s Securities Commission has asked London-based Balkan Petroleum Holding, a newly set up company that plans to take over Macedonia's biggest fuel retailer Makpetrol, to submit additional documents, local media reported on July 18.

Balkan Petroleum Holding was set up less than two weeks after it announced its intention to take over Makpetrol. The mystery surrounding the would-be buyer has raised concerns within Macedonia over the potential sale of the key fuel retailer.

These have intensified as local media have revealed more about the company. In an interview with broadcaster Telma, the Ukrainian ambassador in Skopje Yuriy Goncharuk confirmed that among the individuals behind the firm is Serhiy Kurchenko, a close ally of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. There is an international warrant outstanding for Kurchenko, and he is blacklisted by the US and the EU.

The deadline for the Securities Commission to decide on the takeover intention was set to expire on July 19. However, this will now be extended until Balkan Petroleum Holding’s representative submits the papers. Details on what kind of documents are needed were not revealed.

The decision on the takeover intention will be taken within 10 working days from the date the additional documents are submitted, Telma reported, quoting the Securities Commission.

The holding company offered a price of MKD25,908 (€421) per share for Makpetrol on June 9. The company’s official representative in Macedonia, Petar Stojanovski, sent a request to the Securities Commission to approve Balkan Petroleum Holding’s plans to place a takeover bid on July 4.

A1on reported on July 15 that Makpetrol’s 1,800 employees were concerned about the news of the potential purchase, as little is known about the buyer.

The trade union representing workers in Macedonia’s retail sector urged state institutions and particularly the Securities Commission to research the people behind Balkan Petroleum Holding.

The UK Companies’ House registry lists Balkan Petroleum Holding’s only officer as Vasili Evdokimov, a British national with apparent links to Russia and Belarus, who has been appointed director of no less than 11 companies since 1995.

According to A1on, Israeli-Ukrainian businessman Uri Bider, who recently showed up at a Makpetrol shareholders’ meeting on behalf of Balkan Petroleum Holding, is also linked with the planned transaction. Bider previously participated in the takeover of Rafo refinery in Romania, which later collapsed and is now out of operation.

Makpetrol dominates the fuel retail market in the country, but has a serious competitor, Russian owned Lukoil, which opened its first filling station in 2006. Makpetrol is part of the MSE blue-chip index, MBI10. A total of 112,382 Makpetrol shares are traded on the bourse with market capitalisation of €23.8mn.