Deutsche Bank offers to take control of Yukos, seen as acting for Gazprom

Yukos has received notification of a takeover offer from Deutsche Bank, the company's liquidator said Monday a move analysts said could represent a bid by state-controlled Gazprom to acquire the remaining assets of the fallen Russian oil giant.

OAO Yukos Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko has informed the liquidator, Eduard Rebgun, that the bank suggested holding talks on a deal to acquire "a controlling stake" in Yukos and said it was ready to acquire the company's multibillion-dollar debts, Rebgun told The Associated Press.

Rebgun said no official offer had been received.

An article in the Kommersant business daily Monday cited Gerashchenko as saying that he had received the offer in a letter last week from the head of the German bank's Russian subsidiary.

Deutsche Bank representatives in Germany and Russia declined to comment. Timothy Osborne, the London-based director of GML, which manages a controlling stake in Yukos, said he had only heard of the alleged offer from reporters. "I haven't seen it I have no information," he told the AP. Asked if he thought it likely Gazprom was behind the alleged offer, he said "one would expect so."

OAO Gazprom, the government-controlled natural gas monopoly, declined to comment.

Yukos, once Russia's top oil producer, was brought to its knees by a government campaign that saw it crushed by back tax bills totaling nearly US$28 billion (Ђ22 billion) and its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky jailed on tax evasion and fraud charges.

Observers say that the Kremlin targeted Yukos as revenge for Khodorkovsky's funding of opposition political parties and in a drive to restore a dominant state role in the strategic energy sector.

State oil company OAO Rosneft acquired Yukos' main production arm after a disputed auction in late 2004. But Khodorkovsky's company still has other valuable assets including a major refinery and two large production subsidiaries which Gazprom and Rosneft are expected to scrap over, reports AP.

"Deutsche Bank is most likely acting for Gazprom," for whom it has been a longtime adviser, said Chris Weafer, chief strategist for Alfa Bank in Moscow. "There is going to be a fairly aggressive fight for Yukos' assets."

It was unclear how successful any move by Deutsche Bank might be: An offer would need to be approved by Yukos' creditors committee, in which Rosneft has the second largest claim after the tax authorities.