Russian Railways expands its Latvian holdings

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Russian Railways' holding company, RZD Logistics, has acquired a 50% stake in Latvian rail carrier Liepājas naftas tranzīts (Liepāja oil transit, LNT) via its wholly-owned subsidiary RZDL Multimodal BV, LSM's Ivo Leitans reported Thursday, citing information from Russian state-owned news agency TASS.


According to the report, involved in the deal were the families of former Prime Minister Andris Skele and former Transport Minister Ainars Slesers, widely regarded as two of Latvia's leading oligarchs, and among the country's wealthiest people.

The amount of the transaction has not been revealed, but TASS reported that the aim of the purchase was ''strategic'' and would result in a unified delivery chain from Russia to Latvia's ports.

"The new project will allow RZD Logistics to ensure stable deliveries," the company told TASS.

As expected the exact ownership of the companies involved is far from transparent, involving numerous offshore holding companies and sub-companies, but among the paper trail evidence points towards the involvement of Skele and Slesers via the company Euro Rail Trans, which is 51% owned by RZD Logistics and 49% owned by Locomotive Traction Operator - which owns a 50% stake in LNT.

As reported by LSM March 23, Russian Railways boss Vladimir Yakunin was recently welcomed to a lavish birthday party in Latvia by Latvian Railways boss Ugis Magonis.

Yakunin is currently on the United States' sanctions blacklist but was omitted from the EU blacklist after Latvian lobbying on his behalf.

Rail transit is one of Latvia's most important and profitable business sectors.

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