Shadowy Russia firm reportedly switches 60% stake in Uzbek gas storage facility to Hong Kong entity as Tashkent reacts to sanctions jitters

By bne IntelliNews February 29, 2024

A shadowy Russian company has transferred its controlling stake in Uzbekistan's largest underground gas storage facility to a Hong Kong-registered holding company as Tashkent moves to prevent sanctioned entities from having access to the Uzbek banking system, according to Kun.uz and Podrobno.uz.

The media outlets cited Uzbekistan's corporate records database in stating that a 60% stake in the Gazli storage project was now in the hands of Hong-Kong registered Daxon Holdings.

The majority shareholding was previously held by Russia's Forus. In partnership with Uzbek state gas transmission operator Uztransgaz, the owner of the other 40%, it has since 2018 worked on initially doubling the Gazli storage capacity to 6bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas and then expanding it further to 10 bcm.

Daxon Holdings was incorporated as a limited liability company in 2019, according to Hong Kong public records.

When exactly the shareholder change was made is reportedly unclear from the Uzbek corporate records database.

Some Russian media reports last year suggested that Forus is indirectly controlled by a trustee acting on behalf of a Russian oligarch who has been extensively sanctioned by the US due to alleged links to the invader of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A draft law passed by Uzbekistan’s parliament in mid-February prohibits Uzbek banks from offering accounts to people and corporations subject to the sanctions. The bill can still be amended prior to final approval.

Last week, Uzbek media reports said the Cenrral Asian country’s government plans to invest $500mn on expanding capacity in its natural gas transportation system to enable a significant increase in gas imports from Russia.

Uzbekistan’s own gas reserves are not sufficient to meet annually surging demand. The country started receiving supplies of the fuel from Russia in October. Under a two-year deal with Gazprom, Uzbekistan imports 9mn cubic metres (mcm) of gas daily.

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