News Analysis: M&A Put on Hold until after Presidential Elections
Byline: David Rothnie
The Russian mergers and acquisitions market is likely to close until after the presidential elections, although bankers were at pains to play down the long-term significance of Khodorkovsky's arrest. Constantine Gonticas, head of Central Europe, Middle Eastern and Russian investment banking at Merrill Lynch, said: "The strategic rationale for investing in Russia has not been rendered invalid by recent events."Since the arrest of Khodorkovsky, Danone, the French food group, has postponed its [euro]900m ($1.1bn) acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann, the Russian dairy products and fruit juice group, while last week Russian authorities seized a controlling stake in Yukos. Danone is waiting to gauge the impact on Wimm-Bill-Dann's share price, although if it falls too far the deal could be scuppered.
The $15bn merger between Yukos and Sibneft is due to close next year, but its completion could now be affected by the outcome of the elections, which will be held in April. Optimists believe the transaction will complete. Despite the arrest of two previous Yukos executives in July, including one charged with murder, the Russian anti-monopoly ministry approved the merger in August.
A fortnight ago, the Federal Securities Commission officially registered the closed placement of the Yukos shares in its merger with Sibneft. …