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Streetwise Professor

June 30, 2011

Payback?

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:05 pm

A few dots.  Maybe they connect.  Maybe they don’t.  But they are very interesting.

Dot 1.  The AAR partners–including Alfa Group–of TNK-BP blow up the Rosneft-BP deal that Sechin engineers.

Dot 2.  Oil pipeline monopoly Transneft excludes TNK-BP from the pipeline to Poland and slashes its shipments to Belarus:

TNK-BP clawed back some volumes but the allocations it got for the third quarter remain below previous levels, said Jonathan Kollek, senior vice president for sales, trading and logistics.

“After 10 years of working with one of our most profitable destinations we are thrown out. Can you say why?” Kollek said in a forthright two-hour interview at TNK-BP’s new headquarters.

The British-Russian venture saw its volumes slashed in pipeline operator Transneft’s second-quarter export schedule to Poland amid a shareholders dispute over co-owner BP’s bid to partner with Rosneft.

Kollek’s boss, TNK-BP shareholder German Khan, fired off a series of letters to top officials demanding explanations over why TNK-BP’s allocations had been cut in the quarterly “graphic” of exports to Poland compiled by Transneft.

The company was told, Kollek said, that priority would be given to companies that sign direct contracts with end users.

Reluctantly, TNK-BP last Friday signed a term contract for the third quarter with Polish refiner PKN Orlen despite having a long-standing relationship with trading house Mercuria to cover its Polish shipments.

. . . .

“On Poland an absurd, non-transparent action forces us to be in a position where we cannot fulfill a commitment to an internationally reputable company,” said Kollek, an Israeli who previously worked for trading house Marc Rich. “We lose money. Russia loses money. We lose face.”

Transneft non-transparent?  Say it ain’t so!  Does Alexei Navalny know?

Dot 3.  Executives of Avianova–majority owned by the Alfa Group that is also in the AAR consortium that owns 50 percent of TNK-BP–are evicted from their Moscow offices:

Guy Maclean, director of safety and quality at Avianova, said he rushed to work last Friday morning after receiving a garbled call from a colleague claiming he had been physically pushed out of the building.

When Maclean arrived, he found “a group of employees around the entrance in a state of agitation. Our lawyer was in tears, and she told us, ‘We’ve all been fired,’” Maclean said by telephone Wednesday night. “I said, ‘Well, who fired you?’”

Maclean noticed two “well-dressed” men in the parking lot who appeared to be watching the commotion. When he approached them for an explanation, one said that “unfortunately the foreigners no longer work at Avianova” because one of the shareholders has “restructured the company.”

“Then he told me that ‘the power vertical has been changed,’” Maclean said. “It just stuck in my head, such a stupid phrase. The whole thing was very intimidating and very unpleasant.”

The man later identified himself as Konstantin Teterin and said he had been “invited by the shareholders to take part in the project,” Maclean said.

Avianova named Teterin, a former deputy director of Red Wings airline who has also worked at Aeroflot and Transaero, as its new first deputy general director in a statement Monday.

The statement said Teterin had been hired to ”increase the financial efficiency of the company in line with its strategic goals and development plans.” No mention was made of the dismissal of staff or any restructuring of the airline.

Teterin was also one of the candidates being considered for a board seat at Aeroflot’s annual shareholders meeting Wednesday, Interfax reported. The results of the meeting were not immediately available late Wednesday.

An attempt to locate Teterin for comment was unsuccessful.

In retrospect, Maclean said the only sign of possible change was the arrival of new security guards about a week earlier.

“They were bigger, muscular, in slightly different uniforms,” he said.

He said they had grabbed the British colleague who had called him earlier Friday morning, and when they blocked other employees as well, the purpose of their arrival became clear.

“All I know is my e-mail has been cut off, I’ve been kicked out of the office and I don’t know what’s going on,” Maclean said. “None of us want to walk away from the project.”

Maclean said five staff including a Russian lawyer were barred from the office on Friday, and since then “three or four” Russian staff have also been forced out.

New security guards.  Bigger.  More muscular.  I’ll bet.  Russian rent-a-cops are in a whole different galaxy from your typical suburban mall cop.

This all could be coincidence.  Three unconnected dots in the vast pointillist mural that depicts the ugly realities of doing business in Russia.

But maybe the dots, when connected, lead back to Igor Sechin, exacting retribution on AAR.

This bears watching.

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7 Comments »

  1. “All I know is my e-mail has been cut off, I’ve been kicked out of the office and I don’t know what’s going on,” Maclean said. “None of us want to walk away from the project.”

    Amateur. Any expatriate, especially a contractor, should be prepared to pack bags and walk away from the job in an instant. Never, ever get emotionally tied to a job, especially in Russia.

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 1, 2011 @ 12:49 am

  2. “Never, ever get emotionally tied to a job, especially in Russia.”

    A country with a reputation like that has no future.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 3, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  3. The first domino has fallen.

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/dutch-lawmakers-vote-for-sanctions-in-magnitsky-case/440003.html

    Even as the Kremlin seeks to oust the jurisdiction of the EHCR, the Russian opposition is calling for all to fall, and for Russia to be ousted from the COE.

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/europes-no-1-violator-of-human-rights/440012.html

    Putin has led his nation back into the darkness.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 4, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  4. The horrors of Russian inflation laid bare:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/be03d45c-a666-11e0-ae9c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1RBJCdAeK

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 4, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

  5. Sechin and honored clan brother Levitin could have put this together with no help from the Master.

    Comment by pahoben — July 5, 2011 @ 9:02 am

  6. Sechin’s replacement was named and they went with the Academician Alexander Nekipelov. You will be happy to know that he is an Econmist. He wass on the BOD of “Economists Allied For Rams Reduction” and this from his 1999 article-

    Vladimir V. Putin, the current Prime Minister, has adhered
    to this approach, which at this point is flawed for several reasons.
    First and most important, it fails to take into account the fact
    that efficient post-August stabilization mechanisms had nothing
    to do with correcting basic distortions in the economic system.
    Widespread lack of efficient control over enterprise management
    by the owners of capital remains at the heart of the problem.
    Management often ignores demand constraints, supplying produce
    in exchange for non-payments or illiquid money surrogates.
    Asset stripping at state and privatized enterprises, capital flight
    as well as criminalization of economic activity are all rooted in a
    lack of adequate regulation of property rights. Corporate governance
    reform and the rationalization of the management of state
    assets should be seen as indispensable measures for transforming
    the economy into a genuine market economy. They are not just
    two among numerous “structural reforms.”

    Looks like at that time he had a realistic view of the problems with development in Russia.

    Comment by pahoben — July 6, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  7. Sechin’s replacement was named and they went with the Academician Alexander Nekipelov. You will be happy to know that he is an Economist. He was on the BOD of “Economists Allied For Rams Reduction” and this from his 1999 article-

    Vladimir V. Putin, the current Prime Minister, has adhered
    to this approach, which at this point is flawed for several reasons.
    First and most important, it fails to take into account the fact
    that efficient post-August stabilization mechanisms had nothing
    to do with correcting basic distortions in the economic system.
    Widespread lack of efficient control over enterprise management
    by the owners of capital remains at the heart of the problem.
    Management often ignores demand constraints, supplying produce
    in exchange for non-payments or illiquid money surrogates.
    Asset stripping at state and privatized enterprises, capital flight
    as well as criminalization of economic activity are all rooted in a
    lack of adequate regulation of property rights. Corporate governance
    reform and the rationalization of the management of state
    assets should be seen as indispensable measures for transforming
    the economy into a genuine market economy. They are not just
    two among numerous “structural reforms.”

    Looks like at that time he had a realistic view of the problems with development in Russia.

    John Kenneth Galbraith was involved with this organization.

    I wish you had edit capabilities post submit.

    Comment by pahoben — July 6, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

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