Obscure holding company plans takeover bid for Macedonia’s largest fuel retailer

Obscure holding company plans takeover bid for Macedonia’s largest fuel retailer
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje July 7, 2016

London-registered Balkan Petroleum Holding is seeking the Macedonian Securities Commission’s approval for its plans to place a takeover bid for the country's biggest fuel retailer Makpetrol.

Little is known about Balkan Petroleum Holding, which according to the UK Companies’ House registry was only incorporated on May 29 - less than two weeks after it announced its intention to take over Makpetrol.

The holding company offered a price of MKD25,908 (€421) per share for Makpetrol on June 9, the Macedonian Stock Exchange said at the time. However, the process of announcing the takeover bid was prolonged as its documents were incomplete.

The company’s official representative in Macedonia, Petar Stojanovski, sent a request to the Securities Commission on July 4, daily Kapital reported.

“The takeover bid, takeover prospectus, and other documents in accordance with the law, which will serve for data verification in the process have also been sent," Kapital cited the statement distributed by Stojanovski.

The commission is required to decide on the request within 10 days of the date of obtaining the documents.

Kapital also reported that Balkan Petroleum Holding announced last week that it provided a bank guarantee of €47.5mn for the takeover process, which was filed to Macedonia’s NLB bank and the Central Securities Depository.

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.

Makpetrol shares closed unchanged on July 7 at MKD23,164, with no shares changing hands.

However, the mystery surrounding the would-be buyer has raised concerns within Macedonia over the potential sale of the key fuel retailer.

Macedonian broadcaster Telma reported on July 6 that two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands - Dalia Global Corporation and Vollandes Assets Corporation - are behind Balkan Petroleum Holding. The two firms set up the company Davolia in Cyprus, both with stakes of only €500, and Davolia established Balkan Petroleum Holding 11 days later.

Dalia and Vollandes have no regular addresses, only post office boxes of the Trident company, a law firm used to register off-shore companies across the globe, according to Telma. Trident has many subsidiaries on the Virgin Islands. One of them, Trident Qiojano & Associates was on the European Commission black list, as it opened firms used to launder money for former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. Vollandes has the same PO Box as this company.

Dalia Global was registered at the PO Box 146 of Trident Chambers, which was listed in the Panama Papers as the address of a dozen off-shore companies linked with dubious transactions.

Dalia Global and Vollandes were closed three to four years ago, but their names appeared in the Cyprus central registry of companies again this year.

Companies House lists Balkan Petroleum Holding’s only officer as Vasili Evdokimov, a British national with apparent links to Russia and Belarus, who was appointed director of no less than 11 companies since 1995. Several have since been dissolved, while he resigned from others, often only a few months after his appointment.

His former directorships include Waterford Finance & Investment, which has invested widely in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Latin America, according to the Coba Agains blog, which in July 2014 published a list of Russian donors to the British Conservative Party compiled by the opposition Labour Party. The blog also mentioned that Evdokimov set up law firm called Laptev & Partners' in London “to specifically cater for Russian clients”.