Russia Transneft May Consider Summa Stake In Novo Port
* Fight over NCSP heats up prior to privatisation
* Summa says it wants to buy, not sell the stake
(Reuters) - Oil pipeline operator Transneft on Monday hiked pressure on Summa Group to sell its stake in the Novorossiisk port as the spat between the two rivals intensified over the control of Russia's biggest crude export operator.
State-owned Transneft said it would consider acquiring Summa's stake in Novorossiisk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP) while Summa, which is looking to increase its 25 percent stake with a bid for the state's 20 percent stake, said it would not sell its stake.
NCSP, which operates the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk and Primorsk on the Baltic Sea, has become a bone of contention between the two shareholders ahead of further privatisation expected later this year.
Transneft head Nikolai Tokarev, a veteran state oilman, said he was opposed to Summa Group's participation in the privatisation, which he said would create imbalances in the ownership structure. Transneft and Summa jointly own 50.1 percent of NCSP.
"We haven't discussed the issue in detail. But if Summa decides that the stake could be put up for sale, we would consider such a possibility," Tokarev told reporters during a visit to Germany as part of a delegation accompanying President Vladimir Putin.
Tokarev valued Summa's stake in NCSP at between $300 million and $400 million.
A spokesman for Summa Group, an investment and trading company controlled by businessman Ziyavudin Magomedov, said it was not considering selling its stake.
"In the case of NCSP, we are a buyer, not a seller," he said.
Tokarev has in recent months complained of underinvestment at Novorossiisk and has called for a change of management at NCSP to reduce Summa's influence.
A new acting head was appointed at NCSP last month after a criminal case was opened against its former director general.
Transneft, which together with Summa acquired the stake in NCSP in 2010, has been seeking tighter control over oil flows, the lifeblood of the country's $2.1 trillion economy.
Last year, Novorossiisk handled 42.5 million tonnes of oil, while Primorsk exported 68.15 million tonnes. Together they account for more than half of crude exports from the world's top oil producer.
Tokarev said Transneft would not bid for the state stake, adding there was "no need" for it after the company had restored the government's control of the operator.
"We wouldn't be interested in that (Summa's bid for state stake) when the situation is unbalanced," he said.
Around 10 contenders are planning to bid for the state stake.
State oilmen such as Tokarev and former military translator Igor Sechin, now the head of Russia's top crude producer Rosneft , look set to challenge Magomedov's ambitions to buy state shares in the port group.
Tokarev and Sechin project themselves as staunch defenders of Russia's vital interests through their careful husbandry of its vast natural resources and, increasingly, its infrastructure. (Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Douglas Busvine, Lidia Kelly and Clelia Oziel)
--Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Douglas Busvine (C) Reuters 2013.