* CEO of port operator rejects accusations of mismanagement
* Shareholders Transneft, Summa draw battle lines over NCSP
* NCSP plans talks on debt refinancing programme by the year
(Updates with NCSP's CEO comments)
By Vladimir Soldatkin and Gleb Stolyarov
MOSCOW/NOVOROSSIISK, Russia, Feb 18 The head of
Russia's largest port group denied claims of mismanagement and
under investment by shareholder Transneft on Monday as the
pipeline monopoly prepared to fight fellow shareholder Summa for
control of oil export ports.
The shareholders' standoff precedes the state's expected
sale of a 20 percent stake in the port - controlled by state
property watchdog Rosimushchestvo - as a part of a broader
privatisation programme to raise funds for Russia's budget.
Rado Antolovic, the Chief of Executive of Novorossiisk
Commercial Sea Port (NCSP Group), denied accusations
of under investment and slow growth.
Transneft chief Nikolai Tokarev said the
pipeline operator had called for a change of management at NCSP
and wanted to reduce the influence of Ziyavudin Magomedov's
"I was very surprised when I read that," NCSP Group Chief
Executive Rado Antolovic said late on Sunday, citing a high
level of board support for his candidacy as CEO. "My team and I
will be successful, not by 90 percent, but by 100 percent, and
our results speak for themselves."
Transneft and Rosneft have been seeking tighter control over
oil flows, the lifeblood of Russia's $2.1 trillion-strong
economy. Last year, Novorossiisk handled 42.5 million tonnes of
oil, while Primorsk exported 68.15 million tonnes - accounting
for more than a half of crude exports from the world's top oil
Earlier this month, Rosneft secured several contracts to
supply oil directly to European customers, bypassing trading
structures, operating on Transneft's "Druzhba" pipeline.
Those shifts in the control of Russia's oil flows, combined
with Tokarev's remarks last week suggested the pipeline operator
was lining up for battle against private magnates who built
their fortunes around the company's export infrastructure.
State-owned Transneft and Summa jointly own 50.1 percent in
the port operator, which also controls the Baltic port of
Primorsk, via Novoport Holding Ltd.
According to industry sources, Antolovic was offered the
post of NCSP director general by Summa. He then took the helm
According to NCSP data, Russian Railways owns 5.3 percent,
with 21.9 percent ownership described as "other stakeholders".
Summa is one contender for the stake, while Rosneft
, the state oil company headed by Igor Sechin, a
longtime political ally of President Vladimir Putin, has
suggested it could buy it rather than see it sold on the market.
Moscow-traded NCSP shares fell 3 percent in afternoon trade
on Monday, underperforming a 0.17 percent decline in the broader
On Monday, at a separate news conference, Transneft accused
the port management of under-investing in infrastructure, saying
that out of 5.44 billion roubles ($180.51 million) set aside for
investment in 2012, only 2.5 billion roubles were spent.
Maxim Grishanin, Transneft's vice president, also said the
port may face difficulty managing its debt of $1.95 billion,
mostly borrowed from Russia's top lender, Sberbank, to
Antolovic, speaking with journalists in the Novorossiisk
port on Monday, said he saw no problems over its debt, adding
that NCSP planned talks on refinancing by the end of 2013.
Kommersant newspaper reported last week that Grishanin was
Transneft's pick to replace Antolovic. On Monday Grishanin said
Transneft's candidates were under discussion.
($1 = 30.1365 Russian roubles)
(Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford and Louise Heavens)