Makpetrol to seek redress over “unlawful” handling of hostile takeover bid

Makpetrol to seek redress over “unlawful” handling of hostile takeover bid
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje September 21, 2017

The management of Macedonia’s biggest fuel retailer Makpetrol plans to take action against local institutions for what managers say was their unlawful handling of a takeover bid launched by an offshore company last year. 

London-registered Balkan Petroleum Holding sought approval from Macedonia's Securities Commission in July 2016 to place a bid to take control of Makpetrol for €47mn. The planned takeover sparked many concerns in Macedonia as little is known about Balkan Petroleum, which according to Reuters is owned by Russian investors Alexander Kaplan and Alexander Smuzikov. The company was set up less than two weeks before it announced its intention to take over Makpetrol.

“In a legal state such as Macedonia, an unfair, offensive and incomplete takeover bid placed by an offshore company as Balkan Petroleum sould be rejected, but the matter is not yet closed,” Makpetrol’s CEO, and one of the richest men in Macedonia, Andrea Josifovski, told broadcaster Telma on September 19. Telma is one of the companies owned by Makpetrol.

Josifovski did not specify what action he planned to take, but he is thought to be considering suing the Securities Commission or at least forcing regulators to block the takeover, which is currently suspended. 

Macedonia’s Securities Commission said in September 2016 it had temporarily halted the procedure for approving the takeover bid for Makpetrol due to an unresolved issue related to the activities of another state body.

“The proceeding will continue after the issue is solved by the other competent state authority,” the Securities Commission said in a statement at the time. The name of the body was not mentioned. The previous month, Macedonia’s antitrust body had launched regular proceedings after it received a notification on concentration from Balkan Petroleum Holding for the Makpetrol takeover.

The EU's Energy Community secretariat also raised concerns about the impact that the planned takeover would have on the security of gas and fuel supply in the country.

Josifovski now says that Makpetrol will seek accountability from the executive board of the Securities Commission as well from the Central Securities Depository.

According to Josifovski, nobody explained who the real players behind the takeover bid were. He underlined that at the same time the damages the company suffered due to the process were huge.

“Makpetrol is not a cooperative, but a company which provides a livelihood for 100,000 people, and contributes €175mn to the budget,” he said, without specifying for which time period the figure refers.

Josifovski also claimed the aim of the takeover bid was for Makepetrol to be taken over by “other private persons” and to be disqualified from the oil business.

He did not specify who the “other private persons” were, but mentioned that new players have recently entered the oil business in Macedonia such as former secret police chief Saso Mijalkov, who is a cousin of ex-prime minister now opposition leader Nikola Gruevski. 

However, Josifovski did not say anything to connect Mijalkov to the takeover bid.

Both Mijalkov and Gruevski are under investigation by the special prosecution office in various cases revealed by a wiretapping scandal that broke in 2015, revealing apparent corruption among top officials.

Makpetrol directly employs over 1,800 people. It has 127 filling stations and reported annual sales growth of 30% with net profit of MKD142mn (€2.3mn) in the first seven months of this year. Aside from Telma, Makpetrol controls other three companies: gas transmission system operator GAMA, fuel wholesaler Makpetrol Prom-Gas and trade company Sampion.