Gruzijā sadursmes starp protestētājiem un likumsargiem



Tiesa vērtē "Gazprom" un "Itera" tiesīgumu saņemt dividendes

"Latvijas Gāze" dividends payment to Russian companies challenged in court

How correct is it that the Latvian gas company "Latvijas gāze" paid out several million euros in dividends to Russian state companies on its profits last summer? This question has been brought to court. The case against the company was brought by lawyer Mārtiņš Kvēps, who believes that the fact that we are allowing dividends to end up in the hands of the Kremlin is a stain on the entire country, Latvian Television reported on May 2. 

Energy prices soared around the world after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This helped energy companies, including Latvijas gāze, to make good profits. Coupled with the company's retained earnings from previous years, Latvijas gāze could pay out a significant sum to its shareholders - almost €110 million.

Even two years after the outbreak of war, half of the company's shares are owned by the Russian state energy giant Gazprom and Itera Latvija, effectively controlled by another Russian company, Rosneft.

The legality of dividends paid to them has been challenged in court by lawyer Mārtiņš Kvēps. He believes that Latvia is being humiliated in this way. 

Kvēps bases his arguments on three statements: firstly, the payment of the dividend was not in accordance with public policy and good morals; secondly, Itera's longstanding failure to disclose its true ownership structure means that it has no right to participate in shareholders' meetings, which means that the decisions do not have a quorum; and thirdly, it is a violation of European Union sanctions.

"If a Latvian company in Russia wanted to receive dividends, to pay them out of their business in Russia to Latvia, they cannot do it. Putin has passed two decrees which say: if you want to receive dividends, and we are not talking about state companies or companies that, God forbid, are fighting against them, it would probably not be possible at all, you can only open an account in a Russian bank, receive dividends in roubles and, of course, spend the money only in Russia. That is to say, the Russians have defined their national interests perfectly, so that no money will go abroad that can be used against them. As for the naive Latvians, who are the ones who are really under threat, no problem, come and earn. Well... let's not mix business with politics, as "Latvijas gāze" said in court the day before yesterday."

"Latvijas gāze" did not name the exact amount paid to Russia as dividends last year. The company was not ready to explain its position in a face-to-face interview.

The payment of dividends by Latvijas gāze to Gazprom and Itera prompted the organization "Entrepreneurs for Peace" to develop an initiative that would impose a 90% tax on payments by any company to Russia. If this were applied, Russian companies would receive only a small share of the dividends earned here.

Jānis Taukačs, a lawyer representing Entrepreneurs for Peace, said: "The fact that dividends were paid certainly raised a lot of questions. And one of them was: why such a payout is something that we could not at least put the brakes on in some way, also seeing the experience of other countries like Germany and so on."

The Court of Economic Affairs, which is currently examining the lawsuit brought by lawyer Kvēps against Latvijas gāze, did not comment further on the case. A decision is expected at the end of the month.

LETA news agency previously reported that Latvijas gāze's net turnover last year was EUR 159.819 million, 4.4 times less than in 2022, when natural gas prices experienced a huge spike, and the company suffered a loss of EUR 56.911 million, compared to a profit the year before. "Latvijas gāze" turnover in 2022 was €702.604 million and its profit was €40.8 million.

Latvijas gāze's largest shareholders are Russia's Gazprom (34%), Rietumu banka (28.97%), Germany's Uniper Ruhrgas International GmbH (18.26%) and Itera Latvija Ltd (16%).

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