Rosneft to buy Yukos stations

State-controlled Rosneft strengthened its position as the nation's top oil company on Tuesday, announcing that it would buy nearly 600 filling stations and other facilities that once belonged to the bankrupt Yukos oil company.

Rosneft said it would pay just over 21 billion rubles (US$815 million; euro606 million) for the filling stations and oil product terminals to Yuniteks - the company which purchased them at liquidation auctions earlier in the year.

"The acquisition of these enterprises will enable Rosneft to become a leader in the growing and attractive oil products retail market in Russia," the company said in a statement.

Yuniteks, a little-known company whose owners have not been disclosed, paid 17.5 billion rubles (euro502 million; US$676 million) for the two lots that included the assets bought by Rosneft.

The liquidation sales were dominated by Rosneft and were organized against billions of dollars in Yukos' back tax debts - which critics allege were manufactured as part of a state drive for dominance in the oil sector.

After buying up Yukos's main oil fields and refineries, Rosneft was transformed into Russia's biggest oil producer with production of over 2 million barrels per day.

In a parallel case Yukos' former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year prison sentence on tax and fraud charges.

On Monday, the Vesti television channel cited Rosneft President Sergei Bogdanchikov as saying that the company was in talks to buy other assets acquired by the unknown company Prana in the final auction in early May. Prana beat Rosneft in bidding for a lot that included Yukos' towering downtown headquarters.

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