Serbia to investigate privatisation of NIS

August 13, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

BELGRADE: Serbia is to launch an investigation into the 2008 privatisation of state oil company NIS, now majority-owned by Russia’s Gazprom Neft, the country’s interior ministry said.

Gazprom Neft, which bought a 51 percent stake in the NIS monopoly for €400m ($534m) in 2008, said it was surprised that the Serbian authorities would bring “our fruitful work into question”. In a statement, the interior ministry said it would investigate the deal that was brokered under a government led at the time by the Democratic Party, which is now in opposition.

Some politicians at the time said the sale grossly undervalued NIS. It coincided with the climax of a drive by Serbia’s former southern province of Kosovo to secede, with Serbia relying on ally Russia’s veto in the Security Council to block any UN endorsement of a declaration of independence.

“A special investigative team will examine all the facts and circumstances regarding the privatisation of NIS,” the ministry said.

The sale was part of a wider energy deal between Russia and Serbia, which included a commitment to build the South Stream pipeline through Serbia and construction of a gas storage facility that has since been completed.

Serbia is in the middle of a dispute between the European Union, which it wants to join, and Russia’s South Stream  project, with the EU effectively blocking construction in Serbian neighbour Bulgaria. “Our relations with the government have always been based on partnership,” Gazprom Neft First Deputy CEO Vadim Yakovlev said yesterday.