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Saturday 18.01.2020 | Name days: Antis, Antons

Meroni: Ventspils transaction with Schlaff is in early stage

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The discussions about transaction of Ventspils transitbusiness assets with the Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff are ongoing, but are in an early stage and nothing is decided.

This is reporting Dr. Rudolf Meroni, the Chairman of the Supervisory Boards of AS Ventbunkers, AS Latvijas Naftas Tranzits (LNT) and AS Ventspils Commercial Port in interview to BNN. He belives, that should it come to a transaction, Martin Schlaff will own the business for some years and improve its performance.

You have confirmed in TV that Ventspils Nafta (VN) and Latvijas kuģniecība (LK) will be sold to the Austrian Businessman Martin Schlaff. How soon will this transaction happen?

No this is not what I have said. TV3 published one sentence out of a much longer interview they had requested. TV3 took one sentence out of the context, which as such is distorting. My message was that some negotiations are taking place. But nothing is decided yet. I have confirmed what was reported already in various newspapers over several weeks.

So who are the prospective buyers?

The prospective buyers are from Austria. It is an investment fund close to the Austrian businessman Mr. Martin Schlaff.

When could this deal take place? There where reports that this deal could be completed in a few weeks…

No, this is not possible. A transaction could happen, after an agreement has been reached between Buyer and Sellers. It will take at least some more months. For the moment, there is no agreement.

There are rumors that Grigory Loutshansky is involved in this deal? If yes, what is his role in the deal?

I am not aware of that. I have no knowledge of Mr. Loutshansky’s participation.

What could be the value of this deal?

I cannot comment on that. VN and LK are companies listed on the stock exchange. I cannot speculate about the price, which is not yet agreed. At this time, the investor carries out a due diligence check of the companies. Much will depend from this due diligence.*

Can you explain, how it was possible for all the parties to come together and agree on this deal with all the conflicts going on?

Nobody came together. The conflict between the Ultimate Beneficial Owners of Ventbunkers is unchanged. The conflict even has got worse over the last few weeks. But Mr. Martin Schlaff can speak with all the parties. He is a very skillful negotiator and very experienced in such kind of difficult transactions.

Can you confirm the stories TV3 reported, such as that MS was related to the German Stasi or the Israeli Mossaad and involved in corruption?

No that is nonsense what they have reported. I did not say it. Mr. Schlaff is an honorable businessman, but unfortunately he is quite rich.

How is that a problem?

Well he is a wealthy person and the newspapers are reporting all kinds of nonsense about him. In the last few weeks he was quite often in the newspapers. It was reported that there was an investigation in Israel trying to link him to some payments to politicians. I have read some of these articles and there only the same old stories which pop up from time to time. Mr. Schlaff has never ever been found guilty of anything like that and even the investigations seem not to have found any proof of any wrongdoing.

So I think it is a defamation to report some unfounded allegations, which have no basis. One thing is true: Mr. Schlaff has very good contacts with many important people in the world including politicians.

What percentage of VN and LK shares would be sold? Will the entire companies be sold or only a part?

My understanding is that VNA, LK and VBU with their subsidiaries would be sold, if such a transaction ever happens. Once more, there are only negotiations with the different parties. Nothing is decided.

The media reports say that Martin Schlaff has excellent relations with Gazprom. Does he just want to buy and resell the Ventspils Oil Transit companies?

Mr. Schlaff is a very sophisticated investor. He buys companies, improves their performance and possibly will resell them when the time is right. That is a good business. I cannot blame him. I don’t think he is acting as an itermediary for some Russian company.

The worst problem is that until today the Ultimate Beneficial Owners / Shareholders steal in different configurations from the companies. In Ventbunkers I am trying to fight against this stealing as much as I can. I cannot say that I am fully successful yet. This is the worst problem for the Ventspils companies. This reduces the performance of the companies and reduces their value.

Mr. Schlaff will be able to stop this stealing and the companies will show a completely different performance. This will also be very good for the Latvian State, as the companies generate more business, employ more people and will pay more taxes. But most importantly to the buyer, the value of the companies will increase.

But again, there are rumors saying that the end buyers will be Gazprom and / or Rusneft. What would this mean to Latvian business. Could it mean crude oil will again flow through the LatRosTrans pipe line.

I understand there is nothing decided and not even envisaged. And even the sale to Mr. Schlaff is not yet sure. You are speculating about something ten steps away. Any Russian oil producer – or from whatever former Soviet Republic – will be interested in this asset, once there is peace in the Ventspils oil transit companies. The ongoing big fight is a great handicap for the Ventspils companies. It is ruining the business for everyone, as well as tarnishing the reputaion of Ventspils and Latvia.

The Latvian state is still a small shareholder in LK. Could these shares also be sold? Has this been discussed with government officials?

Should the Austrian investment fund buy the majority of VNA and/or LK, it is mandatory to extend an offer to all the remaining minority shareholders private or public to buy them out. We will see whether the negotiations will be successful. The next few weeks will show it.

* Due diligence is a term used for a number of concepts involving either an investigation of a business or person prior to signing a contract, or an act with a certain standard of care. It can be a legal obligation, but the term will more commonly apply to voluntary investigations. A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for acquisition. Source: Wikipedia


Leave a reply

  1. Kostas Liapis says:

    I hope you will finalize the deal verry soon.

  2. Etty says:

    One or two to rmeebmer, that is.

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