Gazprom and Norilsk Nickel to bid for assets of bankrupted Yukos

Russian industrial giants JSC Gazprom and JSC Norilsk Nickel are interested in bidding for the assets of the bankrupt oil company Yukos, a bankruptcy official said Wednesday.

Nikolai Lashkevich, spokesman for the Yukos court-appointed liquidator, said the Russian state-controlled gas monopoly and the world's biggest nickel producer were among those applying to bid. Last week, he said that U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. had applied to participate in the as yet unscheduled bankruptcy auctions.

Lashkevich also said that independent gas producer Itera was interested in bidding.

He would not disclose the names of all the businesses that have so far applied, but he noted that it included a "large number of Western companies."

Yukos was bankrupted after the enforcement of US$28 billion (EUR 22 billion) in back-tax claims that some observers say were organized by the state to crush the political ambitions of company founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed for fraud and faces fresh money laundering charges that could see his sentence increased to 15 years from 8 years.

Yukos' biggest production unit was bought in Dec. 2004 by state-controlled oil group JSC Rosneft.

Now the company's bankruptcy supervisor is preparing for further sales: Production units with a capacity of some 470,000 barrels per day, as well as two refineries, are expected to go on the block in an auction that analysts say will likely be dominated by Gazprom and Rosneft.

Chevron Chief Executive Dave O'Reilly refused to comment on whether his company was interested in Yukos assets.

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