Kostin confirmed the sale of Khudainatov's IOGC

VTB Bank is interested in expanding the number of shareholders of the Independent Oil and Gas Company, which is now owned by Igor Sechin's ally Eduard Khudainatov. The company bought assets before the fall in oil prices, and now increases the debt, postpones projects and payments on loans.
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VTB is interested in expanding the number of shareholders of the Independent Oil and Gas Company (IOGC), especially if they can attract new money, or know-how, or the markets," Andrey Kostin, head of the board of the bank, told RBC. Now the company is owned by Eduard Khudainatov, which is considered the ally of the CEO of Rosneft Igor Sechin. Hudaynatov put the IOGC for sale, wrote Vedomosti in early February. "Yes, we are aware of it. We are, in principle, even interested in it," Kostin told RBC. Hudaynatov himself in early February denied information about the sale. "I can not confirm this information," he told RBC after Kostin's announcement.

This IOGC is looking for a strategic partner: we have a lot of interesting and promising projects, both in the up-stream, and in the down-stream, said Hudaynatov to Energy Insider.

"In my opinion, the company is a very promising and interesting. But this company is growing, and it requires an investment to master the opportunities that it has," explained Kostin. According to him, the interest in the purchase of shares in the IOGC is actively manifested not only by Russian but also foreign investors. Whether any shares of the IOGC have been pledged to VTB, Kostin didn't say. The company has no overdue debt, but the debts might have been restructurized, the banker said. VTB will continue to work with the IOGC, regardless of whether the transaction is concluded Kostin.

Eduard Khudainatov, who is considered a close associate of the president of Rosneft Igor Sechin, created the IOGC in 2013. Prior to that, in 2010-2012, he led Rosneft, and then gave way the post to Sechin, having worked for some time as the first vice-president. The IOGC immediately began to buy small assets and mining licenses, and in 2014 Hudaynatov bought his biggest asset: Alliance Oil from the Bazhaev family. Hudaynatov bought Alliance Oil with borrowed money, as Kommersant and Forbes wrote; it was confirmed to RBC by a person familiar with Khudainatov. According to Kommersant and  Forbes, the deal was worth $3.5-5 billion, RBC interlocutor says that the price was $4 billion. One of the creditors was VTB, Andrey Kostin was supposedly personally asked by Igor Sechin, Forbes wrote. VTB is called the lender also by an RBC's source. The bank representative did not answer the question of RBC. At the end of 2013, prior to the delisting, Alliance Oil was worth $3.7 billion, excluding debt, which amounted to $1.6 billion.

The IOGC started buying assets, when oil prices were at their peak, and almost immediately after buying Alliance Oil, in September 2014, prices fell down. Back in June 2014. Brent was worth $115 per barrel, and in December it was down to $60 per barrel. Volatility is still ongoing, although the decision of OPEC, Russia and a number of countries to freeze production stabilized the prices at a level above $50 per barrel.

As a result, due to funding problems the IOGC delayed the development of the largest Payyahskoye field, said Hudaynatov. In 2015, the company was unable to pay off Eurobonds for $350 million, but agreed with creditors to refinance. In the first nine months of 2016, the company's debt rose to $2 billion, and it is a heavy burden: the debt burden is nearly 6 EBITDA. The lenders banned it to increase debt, and the company announced the cost optimization.

Most of the IOGC's business accounted for refining: in 2016 its only Khabarovsk refinery planned to process 4.7 million tons of oil, and own production fell from 2.5 million to 2.3 million tons of oil. Refining margin in Russia fell in 2015-2017 due to the tax maneuver and falling oil prices, analysts and companies noted. Rosneft, for example, appealed to the government with a proposal to provide tax relief to some plants; its own refineries and Khabarovsk refinery of the IOGC fall under the requirements. Another problem of the company is its focus on hard-to-reserves, the development of which at the low price of oil became unprofitable. By 2018, the company planned to produce 4.8 million tons of oil, of which more than half from tight reserves.

The financial condition of the entire company has not been disclosed, and it is impossible to estimate the asset, said Raiffeisenbank analyst Andrey Polishchuk. But Alliance Oil has the lowest EBITDA margin in the industry which is likely to be due to bias towards business processing, he says. If Alliance Oil is bought by the company, which lacks its own oil, the profitability could immediately grow, concludes the analyst. Mining assets of the IOGC in the Timan-Pechora region may be of interest to LUKOIL and the Khabarovsk Oil Refinery - to Rosneft, which has the Komsomolsk refinery in the region, he says.

The only Russian company, which currently buys assets in the Russian market is Rosneft, but it seems to be "filled" and it needs to integrate the already purchased assets, said a senior analyst at Sberbank CIB Valery Nesterov. European investors see the Russian oil assets without enthusiasm: there are sanctions, the risk of deterioration of relations with Ukraine. Theoretically, to buy a share in the IOGC would be possible for the Asian investors, in particular the Indian companies that have already accepted the risks of investing in Russia, says the analysts. To sell a share in a separate asset of the IOGC would be more difficult: the company still has no well-known major projects, concluded Nesterov.