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Tuesday 23.01.2018 | Name days: Strauta, Grieta
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Ventspils nafta deal: how much does it hurt Lembergs?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe buyback offer for Ventspils nafta stocks extended by Euromin Holdings Limited has begun. Aivars Lembergs has decided to take active part in the discussion of this matter. It seems that Lembergs’ main reason for concern lies not in his possible continued participation in the future of the company, but exactly the opposite – the thought of losing control and his futile attempts to regain control over transit business.

As it is known, Euromin was obligated to extend a buyback offer for other VN stockholders after purchasing 43.25% of VN stocks for EUR 79.98 million. This deal provided Euromin with 93.24% of all stocks in VN.

Discussions about the deal and the price

President of the Boards in Ventbunkers and Latvijas Naftas tranzīts, Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni, who is also entrusted with managing assets owned by Lembergs family while Aivars Lembergs’ criminal case is being viewed, notes that nearly EUR 80 million for 43.25% of VN stocks is an adequate price.

«The price at which VN stocks were sold exceeds every price that has appeared on stock markets in the past two to three years by 50%,» – explains Meroni.

Meroni’s words are further confirmed by information from the company. According to stock price tables, the rice of VN stocks had only just exceeded EUR 1 in September. The sudden price rise of 73% on 10 September is the largest single-day price rise in the company’s history, which, according to Euromin, was unjustifiably taken into account by the Finance and Capital Market Commission when it made the decision to set the buyback price (EUR 4.56).

«Last week’s price fluctuations have no connection with the [Euromin] deal. Those were deals involving several hundred stocks and they have no real impact in the true value of the 45 million stock bloc,» – said Meroni, adding that the price agreed upon by LNT and Euromin fully complies with the upper range value recognized by hired experts.

Ventbunkers Board member Edgars Ciniņš also notes that this deal is a logical step in the development of VN.

«I believe recently voiced speculations regarding the deal and the price and unjustified and based purely on delusions. I have no doubts about the transparency of this deal and its contribution to the company’s interests,» – said Ciniņš.

Relations between Ventbunkers and Ventspils nafta have been «more than tense» for many years. Hard work has made certain the two companies are trusted partners. It is clear that they will work together to develop Ventpils Freeport.

«I cannot understand why anyone would want to challenge this deal, unless, of course, it is done solely because of unknown personal interests. I believe everyone will benefit from this deal – the sides involved, the small shareholders in VN, Ventspils Freeport and Latvia’s transit industry as a whole,» – he adds.

VN Board President Roberts Kirkups told Bloomberg that the sudden rise in stock prices, which affected FCMC’s assessment, is not in any way related to the company’s value. It is more likely related to attempts of some people to make the deal look uncompetitive.

As reported by Delfi, the only person to have publicly criticized the recent VN deal is none other than Aivars Lembergs.

Where do ‘legs end’

Lembergs is the one to have mentioned a ‘property theft scheme’. It is unknown, however, if he can be trusted in this, considering his own ‘experience’ in this area.

It has been proven time and time again that Lembergs has a deep interest and involvement in Ventspils transit schemes.

This is proven by transcripts of a wire-tapped telephone conversation in Copenhagen published by Pietiek.com, in which it is mentioned that Lembergs has been the biggest owner of Ventspils transit companies for years, countless documents depicting ‘transit wars’ in Latvia, Lembergs’ arrested properties and relationships with shareholders of transit companies.

The wire-tapped Copenhagen telephone conversation also details how Lembergs discussed massive purchases, decided on solutions for situations in different Ventspils companies and how he found time for political consultations and discussion regarding election financing with then the Prime Minister of Latvia Aigars Kalvitis.

The future of transit wars

The situation in Latvia’s transit business has changed. People are currently trying to sort out the consequences that surfaced as a result of transit wars. One step to resolve the situation was the VN deal.

Even Ventspils businessman Olafs Berkis, who had previously been Lembergs’ supporter and opponent, now believes that the price of VN stocks was an optimal compromise: «I never thought the price was too low, especially considering dynamics we observed in previous years. Considering that Ventbunkers’ investments in VN through LNT has been sufficiently large over the years, but has not given us any returns over those years, the deal was a logical and economically-justified step.»

Initially the deal was supposed to go on for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, confidential and market-influencing information was leaked and published in September. This is why it was decided to «do everything it takes to re-stabilize the market».

Euromin and LNT have done a lot of work in order to overcome obstacles and finish the sale of VN stocks this week. «It was necessary in order to avoid potential trading [with stocks] by certain people,» – said Meroni.

The loudest ‘reporter’ is Lembegs, whose dislike of Meroni is loudly reflected in criticisms of this deal. Lembergs continues announcing Meroni’s alleged personal benefits from the VN deal.

What is interesting in this whole situation is that even Lembergs’ personal newspaper with an ironic name ‘Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze’ has become an active opponent of the VN deal. The newspaper continues scaring pensioners and mentioning other ‘thinkers’ who dislike this deal.

It should be added that Delfi named Oleg Stepanov as the ‘first person to lose the most in the decade-long transit war in Latvia’s business environment’. It is entirely possible that the peaceful resolution of the court process in England may have cost Stepanov USD 20 million. It is possible that Lembergs may become the second largest loser in this ‘transit war’.


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