Yukos Arbitration, Iceland Filings, Sazka Claims: Bankruptcy

OAO Rosneft, the world’s biggest gas producer and Russia’s top oil company, owes $160 million in interest on arbitration awards paid last year to Yukos Capital after a failed court challenge, a U.K. judge was told.

The interest stems from Rosneft’s “refusal to satisfy” awards totaling $425 million until four years after they were issued by a Russian commercial tribunal, a lawyer for the Dutch former unit of bankrupt Yukos Oil Co., said today in London.

Yukos Capital sued state-controlled Rosneft in the U.K. over claims a Russian court had annulled the awards as a result of political interference. The Moscow-based company paid the arbitration awards in August, after asset freezing orders were issued against it in Britain, the Netherlands, New York, Ireland and the British dependency of Jersey.

“The Russian government wanted to take control of Yukos and its assets” in order to “control a major resource and destroy a political enemy,” Gordon Pollock, Yukos Capital’s lawyer with Essex Court Chambers, said at today’s hearing.

Rosneft has denied the allegations. The company said in court papers this month that a Dutch appeals court ruling behind the U.K. asset freeze may be challenged again in the interest- payment dispute because Yukos Capital didn’t prove the Russian annulment ruling was biased.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former chief executive officer of Yukos Oil and once Russia’s richest man, was jailed in 2003 while challenging Vladimir Putin politically. Last year, he was sentenced to a further six years in prison after a Moscow court found him guilty of money laundering and embezzlement. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the case raised “serious questions” about political interference.

Most of Yukos’s assets were sold to Rosneft after the company was bankrupted in 2004 and liquidated by then-President Putin’s government to recover some of the more than $30 billion in taxes Yukos Oil was said to owe.

Iceland Corporate Bankruptcies to Rise, Economy Minister Says

About a quarter of Icelandic companies with debts between 10 million kronur ($87,000) and 1 billion kronur are likely to fail, the government said in an estimate today.

Of Iceland’s 5,977 companies, 1,974 won’t need to restructure their bank loans, while 1,925 have negotiated more lenient repayment terms, the Economy Ministry said in a statement on its website. A further 526 companies may need to negotiate repayment terms, while another 1,552 companies may face bankruptcy.

“The odds are that the majority of companies falling under an agreement on debt restructuring for small and medium size companies will be offered a solution by June 1,” the ministry said in the statement. “Small and medium sized companies account for a large portion of the country’s economic output and represent about 90 percent of the country’s corporations.”

Saab Stake Talks Failed on ‘Commercial Realities,’ Hawtai Says

Sweden’s Saab Automobile failed to secure investment from Hawtai Motor Group because of “commercial and economic realities,” not a lack of government approval, the Chinese company said May 13.

Cooperation with Saab’s owner, Spyker Cars NV (SPYKR), remains a “top priority” for Hawtai and partnership options are still being explored, the Beijing-based company said in a statement.

Hawtai agreed on May 3 to invest 120 million euros ($171 million) for a stake of as much as 29.9 percent in Spyker in a transaction that would have eased a cash shortage that halted output at Trollhaettan-based Saab on March 29. It also planned to lend 30 million euros to Spyker, which said the deal had failed to win approval from the Chinese authorities.

“Saab needs help and we strongly believe we are the best partner in this regard,” Richard Zhang, Hawtai’s vice president, said in the statement.

Tom Grimmer, an external spokesman for the Chinese company, declined to elaborate on the failure of the previous plan with Zeewolde, Netherlands-based Spyker, which would have seen Saab make a comeback in China after being absent since 2008.

Under that agreement, Hawtai would have made Saab vehicles locally for the Chinese market, starting in 2013 with the Swedish carmaker’s upgraded 9-3 model.

Sazka Administrator Recognizes $879 Million in Claims, HN Says

Sazka AS’s bankruptcy administrator Josef Cupka recognized 15 billion koruna ($874 million) in claims by creditors of the lottery company, Hospodarske Noviny reported May 13.

Czech financial groups PPF AS and KKCG hold more than 6 billion koruna in claims, the newspaper said.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons in London at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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