October 24, 2007 / 9:45 AM / 12 years ago

Abramovich and Mittal behind Russia Russneft bid-media

MOSCOW, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Russia’s richest man, Roman Abramovich, or Indian-born steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal is the likely mystery bidder challenging billionaire Oleg Deripaska for control of oil firm Russneft, Russian media said.

A source at Russia’s anti-monopoly agency told Reuters this week the agency had received a second application to compete with Deripaska, whose Basic Element investment vehicle filed for government permission to buy the embattled mid-sized oil firm.

The source did not disclose the name of the second bidder.

Kommersant business daily on Wednesday quoted an unnamed source as saying Abramovich, owner of London soccer club Chelsea and former owner of oil firm Sibneft (SIBN.MM), was interested in Russneft, which faces over $800 million in back tax claims.

Abramovich sold Sibneft in 2005 to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM), which renamed the firm Gazprom Neft.

Kommersant and another Russian newspaper, Vedomosti, named Mittal as another possible bidder for Russneft. The founder and chief executive of ArcelorMittal (MT.N) ISPA.AS, the world’s largest steel maker, has previously expressed interest in both oil assets and Russian assets.

Russneft declined to comment on the reports.

Former Russneft head Mikhail Gutseriyev, who is accused of tax evasion and illegal business activities, agreed in August to sell Russneft to Basic Element but has since fled the country and is now on Russia’s international wanted list.

After Gutseriyev quit, the position of chairman was assumed by Alexander Korsik, who was Sibneft’s vice-president under Abramovich.

Sources close to the talks have said Deripaska would pay around $6.5 billion for Russneft, including $3 billion in cash and assumption of the company’s heavy debt.

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