21 March 2014, News Wires – Oil-trading giant Gunvor Group said high-profile billionaire Gennady Timchenko has sold off his ownership stake in the company after the US added his name to a sanctions list over Russian plans to annex Crimea in a row with Ukraine.
Timchenko, a major shareholder in gas producer Novatek and a founder of Gunvor, sold his entire 23% stake so the trading house could continue with “uninterrupted” business operations.
Timchenko made the sale “anticipating potential economic sanctions” and to “ensure with certainty the continued and uninterrupted operations of Gunvor Group”, the Swiss-based company said in a statement on its website on Thursday.
The shares were “personally” sold on Wednesday to trader and co-founder Torbjorn Tornqvist, who now controls the company with an 87% interest.
The remaining 13% of shares are held by senior employees and there are no outside shareholders, Gunvor said.
Earlier on Thursday, Timchenko became one of 20 people added to the US Treasury’s list of “specially designated nationals”.
The sanctions were due to Timchanko’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Western powers have come down hard on Russia over the country’s vote this week to annex the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Gunvor also strongly denied any relationship between the trading house and Putin, despite claims by the US State Department that Putin “has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds”.
“(President) Putin has not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise in Gunvor. He is not a beneficiary of Gunvor or its activities,” the company said in a statement on Twitter.
People one the specially designated nationals list have their assets blocked and US entities are generally forbidden from dealing with them.
The 61-year-old Timchenko also owns a reported 13% share in IG Seismic Services and additional interests in in gas producer Petromir.