Vekselberg slashes stake in Russia’s top solar developer

23 August, Week 33, Issue 924

Sanctioned Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg has reportedly divested some of his share in the country’s biggest solar developer, Hevel.

Vekselberg, along with other oligarchs targeted by US sanctions in early April, has sought to distance himself from his own business interests in order to protect them. Earlier this year he shed shares in several of his Swiss assets, including engineering firm Sulzer, tech group Oerlikon and steel producer Schmolz + Bickenbach. Vekselberg controls much of his business empire through Renova Group, which was also sanctioned by Washington earlier this year.

According to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, a company controlled by Renova called Beluna Investments has sold a 5% stake in Hevel to Ream Management, a firm owned by businessman Mikhail Sivoldaev. Sivoldaev sits on the board of Metkombank, a bank with close ties to Renova. Vekselberg used to be the majority owner of Metkombank, but he reportedly passed most of his shares to Renova’s top managers in December 2016, and now controls less than 10%.

Renova’s indirect share in Hevel has fallen from 51% to 46% following the recent sale by Beluna. Vekselberg has likewise reduced Renova’s interests in other subsidiaries to below a controlling stake, as this means that sanctions do not apply to them.

The remaining 49% share in Hevel is owned by Russian state tech company Rusnano. Rusnano and Renova set up Hevel in 2009. The company owns a solar module production plant in the Volga region, and operates around 200 MW of solar generation across Russia. It has committed to building a further 364 MW of projects over the next few years.

Another oligarch included in Washington’s blacklist, Oleg Deripaska, has also taken steps to shelter his businesses from sanctions.

Deripaska’s two main companies, energy group En+ and aluminium producer Rusal, have both been targeted by Washington’s punitive measures. However, the US Treasury has hinted that it may lift the restrictions if Deripaska cuts his stakes in the companies to below 50% and hires independent directors.

In another move to protect its interests, En+ announced last week it would reregister itself from Cyprus to one of two recently created offshore tax havens in Russia. Companies that move to the zones, set up on Russky Island in the Far East and Oktyabrsky Island off Kaliningrad, are able to hide information about their structure and owners from all but Russian courts and regulatory bodies.

Joseph Murphy

Edited by

Joseph Murphy

Editor

Any questions? Please get in touch