Alexander Vinokurov was suspected of involvement in the collapse of the auto dealer "Independence"

The son-in-law of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could "inherit" in the automotive business, experts suggest.
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The car dealer "Independence" actually died. In the autumn, all automakers and brands tore up contracts with him, and at the end of November the dealer closed all the salons, and one of its creditors - Gazprombank filed lawsuits on the bankruptcy of six companies of the Independence group. The phantom chance for salvation remains, but everything has already gone too far, the employee of another bank, the creditor of Nezavisimosti, states. According to the agency "Ruspres", its co-owners - Alfa Group Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and Herman Khan, tried to save the company, but the $ 20 mln allocated for pre-capitalization of the enterprise disappeared without a trace. The son-in-law of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Alexander Vinokurov, may be implicated in the disappearance.

No Machines

"I blocked my car with the main entrance," "I will never buy anything in this car showroom and recommend it to someone too", "made a big mistake that he paid for the car immediately", "wait a car for one month or more - this hell "... Such messages on the BMW forum were written by clients of" Independence "in late summer or early autumn. As it turned out, the company delayed the issue of cars for months, without explaining anything to customers.

On September 12, BMW blocked "Independence" access to the system of ordering new cars, and from October 1, broke the contract. The delay in the issuance of cars "Independence" violated the terms of the contract on the status of the official dealer with the importer, explained BMW.

Termination of the contract with BMW was the strongest blow for the group, a representative of Nezavisimosti admits. After the BMW fell relations with other importers. In October, the contracts with the dealer were canceled by Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover. The representative of Volvo explained the gap with "reputational and other losses", and Jaguar Land Rover - the fact that "views on business development" of the importer and "Independence" ceased to coincide. In November, the contracts were terminated by Mazda, Ford, Audi, Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Volkswagen.

BMW buyers "Independence" did not issue 47 fully paid cars, says a spokesman for the automaker. "BMW Group Russia" had to issue them at their own expense. A couple more dozen people made a symbolic advance payment for cars (from 10 thousand to 50 thousand rubles, less than 1% of the cost). Their cases are solved individually, says a representative of BMW Group Russia.

"Independence" did not issue a little more than 30 fully paid Volvo cars, says a representative of the auto concern: the importer recommended that customers solve the problem with the car dealer. What is not the best part of characterizing this automaker. A representative of Volkswagen Group Rus recognizes that the dealer did not issue fully paid cars and did not return the initial payments to customers. He refused to give statistics. But he said that the company at its own expense gave the cars to the buyers. Also, a solution was found for customers who prepaid for new cars in the amount less than their cost. Details spokesman "Volkswagen Group Rus" did not disclose.

Among the buyers of Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Peugeot and Mitsubishi there were no problems with obtaining cars, said representatives of these companies. Their colleague from Mazda Motor Rus did not provide comments.

The debt of "Independence", according to the company, to banks exceeds 6 billion rubles. "The management of the group together with key lenders have worked together to find options for debt restructuring," said a representative of Nezavisimosti. "Unfortunately, under current conditions, it is not possible to conduct it." The company, he said, expects that new processes of bankruptcy of the group companies will be initiated.

"Gazprombank has repeatedly restructured the indebtedness of the group" Independence ", - said the representative of the bank. But some creditors in October began to make the first demands for the recognition of a bankrupt bankruptcy. In this situation, the bank "considered that recovery is impossible and it is also advisable to apply to court with a bankruptcy petition," said a representative of Gazprombank. To repay the debt, the creditors will consider the possibility of bringing to account the bankruptcy of the ultimate beneficiaries of the Independence group and its top managers, promises a person close to one of the creditor banks of the dealer.

Hope for growth

"Independence" was founded in 1992 by Roman Tchaikovsky, and in 2008 its shareholder became the investment division of Alfa Group Mikhail Friedman and his partners A1 (49.95%). At that time the group, according to "Autobisnesrev," was one of the ten largest dealer holdings in Russia. A1 is "not a strategic investor" and will leave business when it can sell its stake in Nezavisimosti at fair value, former president A1 Khabarov said earlier in an interview with Vedomosti. Soon Khabarova was replaced by the son-in-law of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Alexander Vinokurov, but this moment never came.

A1 was a financial investor of "Independence" and did not deal with its operational activities, says its representative. At the end of last year, the dealer management reported a difficult financial situation and requested support, which was provided, he added. The shareholders participated in the additionalization of the State Corporation "Independence" in the amount of 1 billion rubles. In addition, in the spring of 2017 a management change was carried out to restructure the company's debt load and optimize financial activities. "Unfortunately, as we see, the normalization of the situation has not occurred," complains representative A1. The very "Independence" explains the collapse of the wrong strategy of business development. The crisis of 2008 was successful, making a bet on the premium segment, recalls the representative of the company: then the market quickly recovered. In 2014, "Independence" chose a similar strategy, hoping for a rapid recovery of the market. But the crisis turned out to be completely different, he admits: both sales and the profitability of new cars have fallen. But the high debt load, passing from the past periods of active growth and building up the infrastructure, has not gone anywhere. This led to a serious loss in a few years, says representative A1. And constant pressure from manufacturers to implement the sales plan led to the fact that new cars were sold almost at cost. According to "AutoBusinessNews", since 2012, the company's revenue fell 2 times, and car sales - 4.6 times.

Even before the crisis of 2014, "Independence" was managed ineffectively, the former employee of the company objected: management sat on multimillion annual salaries, each had several deputies, many with personal drivers. The company had a lot of unreasonable waste.

Stability and a large share of dealer centers in the regions did not add to the stability, the person close to the company believes. According to AutoBiznesrev, in 2015, out of 24 Nezavisimosti dealerships, eight were located in the regions. And in 2017 - six of the remaining 13. In addition, many buildings for the dealer centers of "Independence" were leased, and after the crisis the company was not engaged in the revision of rental rates and the renegotiation of contracts. For example, the dealer center in Belaya Dacha occupied about 7 thousand square meters. m. Such a giant area could be afforded except in a growing market, rent could cost $ 2 million a year, and that's a lot of money. "Out of 10 dealerships there were four leases, the lease was carried out on commercial terms and was regularly reviewed," the representative of Nezavisimosti argues.

Sales fell, and loans remained

The problem of dealers is that at first people stopped buying cars for their own, then they stopped buying them on credit, and then stopped repairing in official centers and went to garages, says the employee of the bank - the creditor of "Independence".

Over the past decade, dealers have experienced two crises. First sales collapsed after 2008. But after three years the fall was won, and in 2012 in Russia a record number of cars was sold.

And then for four consecutive years, sales fell, and the market for new cars and light commercial vehicles was halved - according to the Association of European Business, with almost 3 million units. in 2012 to 1.43 million in 2016. The bankruptcy of dealers in such conditions is inevitable. But the pace of reduction of dealer networks did not correspond to the scale of falling sales. According to the analytical agency "Autostat", from 2012 to 2016 the number of dealer centers decreased by 16% - from 4,068 to 3,413.

The auto dealership business is traditionally highly accredited branch, two top managers of the dealer companies explain: successfully and quickly to develop business it turns out only at the expense of involved means. Dealers are attracting loans for the development of the dealer network, the construction of centers, to which manufacturers may have special requirements, says analyst VTB Capital, Vladimir Bespalov.

Traditionally, the profitability of the dealership business is also not high, Bespalov points out: in good years it is about 3-6%. "On new cars, dealers do not earn much: the main revenues are from the service and the sale of spare parts," says Sergey Udalov, executive director of Avtostat. Attempts to diversify the proceeds to special successes did not. Sales of new cars still bring the lion's share of revenue to dealers. Hopes to receive comparable money from the service and trade of used cars did not materialize.