Russia’s Gazprom ups stake in Media

Company eyeing Western investor

MOSCOW — Further stock shuffles at Russia’s leading commercial company Media-Most will be completed shortly, now that it has confirmed it is selling an additional stake to natural resources giant Gazprom.

Media-Most spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky told Daily Variety that Gazprom is set to acquire at least 14% of the company’s stock, though he declined to elaborate on financial details.

The news follows a recent announcement that Media-Most is looking for a Western institutional investor to acquire a 15% stake in the company.

Local analysts have been saying that the company is heavily burdened by debt, while recent court cases forced it to settle up on overdue loans to one state banking group.

Court action prompted

Media-Most retaliated by taking international court action against the Russian government for cross-default on treasury paper.

Gazprom is no stranger to Media-Most, already holding a 30% stake in its subsidiary, the top commercial broadcaster NTV.

Its current support is likely to strengthen the holding company’s uncertain political position more than its financial health, given that Gazprom is the most influential player in Russia’s economy.

In fact, cash may not be changing hands at all. The stake will likely be absorbed in return for settlement of pledges made by Gazprom to Media-Most’s creditors, including Credit Suisse First Boston, which is owed at least $320 million coming due in the next 18 months.

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