Russian billionaire may be interested in Latvian gas companies

Russian businessman Igor Makarov, the owner of international group Areti (formerly Itera), is interested in buying shares belonging to Itera Latvija in Latvijas Gaze and Conexus Baltis Grid natural gas companies, said Itera Latvija board chairman Juris Savickis.

Asked whether Makarov would be able to purchase shares in both companies and whether he meets the Latvian Energy Law requirements, Savickis said that it is being studied right now, reported LETA.

Savickis, a former KGB colonel, did not disclose the sum of any possible deal, and said such discussions might take months. However, it is equally possible that mentioning Makarov's name in public may simply be some kind of business maneuver.

According to Lursoft business database, Makarov is the owner of Cyprus-registered Areti International Group Limited.

In 1992 Makarov established the Itera gas company that developed into an international energy group and was a co-owner of Itera Latvija gas importer. In 2013 Itera oil and gas business was sold to Russian gas company Rosneft, while the other group’s part – Itera International Group of Companies changed the name to Areti International Group.

According to Forbes magazine, Turkmenistan-born Makarov's personal fortune is 2.1 billion dollars. 

He and Savickis are no strangers to each other. As well as their Itera connection, Savickis is chairman of the board at Dinamo Riga ice hockey club - of which Makarov is a part owner, according to the Richest Russian website. However, the official club website does not list his name among the club's owners, instead listing Itera Latvia as the owner of 60% of the club's shares.

Itera is also the club's main sponsor and Savickis personally owns 9% of the club.

As previously reported, Conexus Baltic Grid was founded late last year to take over natural gas storage and transmission functions from Latvijas Gaze. The company’s share capital is 39 million euros.

Latvian commercial TV3 channel reported earlier that the value of Conexus Baltic Grid shares might be 200 million euros.

The largest shareholders of Conexus Baltic Grid are Russian Gazprom (34.1 percent), Marguerite Fund (29.1 percent), Germany's Uniper Ruhrgas International GmbH (18.3 percent) and Itera Latvija (16 percent) or the same as Latvijas Gaze shareholders. But the shareholders, with the exception of financial investor Marguerite Fund, have to dispose of their shares in Conexus Baltic Grid by the end of 2017 so that the new shareholders would not be related to Latvijas Gaze.

With the opening of the Latvian gas market on April 3, the amendments to the Energy Law giving the Latvian state the right of first refusal in respect to purchase of shares in Conexus Baltic Grid took effect.

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