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Dresdner Bank Set To Value Yukos Unit

The Justice Ministry said Thursday it hired investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein to value Yukos' biggest oil producing unit, due to be sold off to pay the oil company's tax debt.

The unit, Yuganskneftegaz, pumps 60 percent of Yukos' daily oil output of 1.7 million barrels per day.

Yukos shares extended earlier gains to trade up 14.9 percent at 111.40 rubles after the announcement about the selection of DrKW, part of Germany's Allianz Group.

Analysts said the decision, announced in a terse statement, may increase chances of Yuganskneftegaz being sold at a decent price as the state seeks to recover a $3.4 billion tax debt owed by Yukos for 2000.

It was a sign the Russian government wants to show it is following international practice in pursuing claims against Yukos that have shaken investor confidence in President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Moscow Arbitration Court denied on Thursday a request from Yukos to give it more time beyond the end-August deadline to pay a $3.4 billion back tax bill for 2000. Yukos had asked for more time, saying it cannot meet the deadline because it lacks spare cash and is banned from selling assets to raise more money. Yukos' 2001 and 2002 taxes are also under scrutiny.

Some analysts have worried that the government, which appears determined to dismantle the oil company, would make the tax claim as much as it needs to seize Yukos oil units.

Yukos itself has put a value of over $30 billion on the unit based on its reserves, while analysts give it a market value of $12 billion to $20 billion.

The announcement came in after business group Menatep, the vehicle of core Yukos owners including Khodorkovsky, declared Wednesday that Yukos is in default on a $1.6 billion loan Menatep had provided to the company last year.

Analysts said the move meant Yukos' core owners were giving up hope that the oil giant would survive and were trying to recover at least some money before it ends up in state hands.

By issuing a default notice, Menatep could be threatening to seize export revenues from Yukos, effectively pushing the Kremlin to choose between allowing the group to get its money or disrupting oil exports, one of the cards that keeps Russia at the top table of world politics. Yukos contributes about 20 percent of Russia's total crude oil output, while Russia is the world's No. 2 oil exporter after Saudi Arabia.

A source close to Yukos said Wednesday that the default notice means that the creditors will be able to seize up to 75 percent of Yukos export revenues if they wish to proceed quickly with debt collection.

Breaking the pattern of avoiding debate about the fate of Yukos, a top government energy official said Wednesday that the freeze of Yukos accounts imposed by courts in April could soon lead to a disruption of Yukos output.

"If the accounts are not unfrozen, the company will be forced to stop production," said Sergei Oganesyan, head of the Federal Energy Agency, which oversees national energy security.

Oganesyan said that the agency and the Energy and Science Ministry have appealed to prosecutors, tax authorities and the Court Marshals Service to allow Yukos temporary access to its accounts.

(The St. Petersburg Times 13.viii.04)

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