Top-manager of Gazprombank led the Czech factory to bankruptcy

The list of investment failures of Russian businessmen in the Czech Republic is a new business. Metallurgical plant Poldi Kladno can be declared bankrupt. The owner of the company, according to the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes, is vice-president of Gazprombank Andrey Zokin.
March could be the month of the beginning of big changes in the metallurgical company Poldi Kladno in Central Bohemia. The Regional Court in Prague began hearing on the case of a possible bankruptcy of the enterprise. Also the board of creditors of the firm has already had a meeting. According to the newspaper Deník, the court will either allow the reorganization of the company to continue, or the enterprise will be declared bankrupt.

Repeating the fate of a number of other metallurgical enterprises, the plant stopped the work of the forge shop. The foundry, which gave hope for the resumption of production at the beginning of the year, does not work. Staff, according to Human Resources Director Antonina Chimera, is overwhelmingly at home, earning 80% of the average salary. A maximum of one-third of the 210 full-time employees go out to work, who are mainly engaged in servicing the machines and ensure that the enterprise is not plundered.

Uneasy business

The process of recognizing Poldi as insolvent began on February 23, 2016 on the basis of the decision of the City Court of Prague. On June 16 last year, the same court authorized the reorganization of the debtor company, and on September 5, 2016, it was decided to approve the reorganization plan.

It is noteworthy that the arbitration manager of the Poldi Kladno plant was assigned the law firm Žižlavský a partneři ("Zhizhlavski and partners"). The same bureau in due time acted as the arbitration managing director at reorganization of factory Pilsen Steel.

The production stop at the Poldi Kladno plant is the third not very successful attempt by Russian businessmen to engage in metallurgy in the Czech Republic. The first was the Vitkovice Steel plant - in 2005 it was acquired by the Russian company Evraz for $285 million. In April 2014, it sold the plant to a group of private investors for 89 million euros plus debt payment, while the steel mill in the plant closed in the fall of 2015. Then there was the Pilsen Steel enterprise, bought in 2006 by OMZ owned by Kakha Bendukidze together with the Škoda JS plant for the amount of about 40 million euros and sold in 2010 to Igor Shamis for 125.6 million euros, of which about 110 million euros were loans of VEB Bank.

At this plant, the first insolvency process was started in December 2011, and the plant itself was declared bankrupt in September 2012. Purchased in 2009 from the German company Schölz, plant Poldi Kladno was hidden by the owner behind the Cyprus company Rucarto Limited, but according to the newspaper MF Dnes, it is the vice-president of Gazprombank Andrey Zokin.

The newspaper notes that the problems at the Poldi Kladno plant began back in 2009 with delays in paying salaries. The situation developed spasmodic, periods of resumption of production and even its expansion gave way to failures, there were personnel strikes. The result of the downward movement was the announcement of the company insolvent and the beginning of its reorganization. At the heart of the reorganization is the condition that creditors (and there are more than one hundred of them; the total amount of debt approaching half a billion kroons or $25 million) will receive at best 3% of their debts. More will receive only the company Fer Leasing.

Lifesaving circle of tolling

To reorganize the Poldi Kladno plant, the same scheme is used, which once saved the company Pilsen Steel - operational activities through tolling schemes. All raw materials and necessary components are purchased through the tolling company Poldi Toll, which then sells the final products. The owner of Poldi Toll is Annasette Investments Limited, which is registered in the offshore zone in the British Virgin Islands, and the managing director is the complete namesake of the owner of the European-Russian Bank Roman Popov.

A similar company in Pilsen is called Pilsen Toll. The fundamental difference between the Kladno situation and Pilsen is that for Poldi Toll there was one of the largest Czech oligarchs, Karel Komarek, who has tremendous financial resources and at that time had a direct interest in revitalizing Pilsen Steel - Karel Komarek's company MND Group holds 16.86 % of shares in the company Vemex, which Pilsen Steel was due for gas supplies of about four million euros. Karel Komarek provided financing for the operational activities of the plant and kept it afloat until VEB bank agreed with Igor Shamis about the conditions for the purchase of the plant.

"Since the purchase of the Poldi Kladno plant has nothing to do with Gazprombank directly, it can hardly be expected that the bank will allocate any funds to support this plant. Judging by the fact that wage payments at Poldi Kladno are intermittent, the reorganization plan is not fully implemented, but the enterprise is idle, its owners are experiencing liquidity problems," said one of the people familiar with the situation at the plant to Prague Telegraph on condition of anonymity. According to the source, the owner of the plant is actively negotiating with several potential buyers, among whom the Chinese investor was also named, however, it is difficult to expect decisions in the near future. "The buyers are aware about the financial situation at the plant; for them, it's more profitable to wait when the owner agrees to sell the asset at the minimum possible price," said the source.