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Rosneft pays $6.8 bln for Yukos' Siberian assets

OAO Rosneft, Russia's government-owned oil company, paid $6.82 billion at an auction Thursday for Siberian oil producer Tomskneft and other assets formerly belonging to Mikhail Khodorkovsky's bankrupt Yukos.

The purchase of Tomskneft, which had Yukos' largest oil producer of late, is expected to make Rosneft Russia's leading oil producer with some 2 million barrels per day, surpassing the privately-held Lukoil. Also included in the purchase were the East Siberian Oil Company, the Angarsk Petrochemicals company and the Achinsk refinery, all based in Eastern Siberia. „We in the company are convinced the acquired East Siberian assets represent a new step in the development of Rosneft,” Vladimir Voyeboda, a company spokesman, said in remarks run by Interfax. The auction brings Yukos, which before founder Khodorkovsky's arrest on charges of tax fraud in 2003 was Russia's biggest oil firm, one step closer to oblivion. The company's last remaining big asset, Samaraneftegaz, is to be auctioned off this month. Rosneft's sole opponent in the auction was a little-known firm called Unitex, which Moscow-based Vedomosti speculated could be tied to Gazprom, Russia's mammoth natural gas monopoly.

Unitex made the first bid, at 166.3 million rubles, ($6.45 billion) and Rosneft won the auction, which took place at Yukos' Moscow headquarters, 35 bids later. Rosneft's shares rose some 1.5% on Moscow's MICEX exchange soon after the auction. The state-owned company has grown dramatically as a result of former Yukos assets, including the heavily discounted Yuganskneftegaz, a massive production unit in West Siberia it won at auction in 2004. Rosneft's good fortunes led to a $10 billion IPO last July, and the company has expressed an interest to continue growing, possibly through the purchase of Samaraneftegaz.

But analysts say Gazprom may want some of the Yukos assets as well. The monopoly, which has agreed to buy Yukos property bought by Italy's Eni and Enel last month, is said to be wary of legal action as a result of direct purchases at auction of Yukos assets. With over 20 billion barrels of oil equivalent reserves, Rosneft says it has the world's largest among public companies. It produced about 85 million tons of the fuel last year. (