Zhaikmunai to seek London listing

Nov 20. Financial Times

By Michael Kavanagh and Caroline Binham

Zhaikmunai to seek London listingZhaikmunai, the Kazakhstan-based oil and gas producer, has become the latest company from the former Soviet Union to signal its intention to seek a full London listing that would quality it for entry into the FTSE 250 index.

Frank Monstrey, the company’s leading shareholder with a 28 per cent stake, said Zhaikmunai already met the free float requirement of candidates seeking entry to the FTSE indices, with 33 per cent of its shares freely traded.

However, he accepted that the company, whose global depository receipts (GDRs) have been traded in London since 2008, would need to expand the number of independent directors. There are only three independent non-executives on the seven member board.

The Isle of Man-registered company, valued at $1.1bn at the original flotation, has asked law firm White & Case to advise on a possible switch from GDRs to a full London listing.

If successful, Zhaikmunai would join fellow Kazakh companies Eurasian (ENRC) and Kazakhmys on London’s main list.

Mr Monstrey is a Belgian-born businessman who acquired Zhaikmunai’s assets outright in 2004. It floated at $10 a share, but the recall of a loan by BNP Paribas following a breach in banking covenants forced Mr Monstrey to sell down his stake at $4 a share in November 2009 to the company’s second largest shareholder KazStroyService, itself once considered a candidate for a London IPO.

KazStroyService, which now has a 27 per cent stake, is controlled by Timur Kulibayev, the billionaire son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and Indian business partner Arvind Tiku. Earlier this year Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s richest man, bought about a third of KazStroyService.

Vostock Capital Partners, a Russian private equity firm, controls 13 per cent of Zhaikmunai, with Prudential, Franklin Resources, JPMorgan Asset Management and Henderson Global among western investors.

Mr Monstrey said that the dilution of his shareholding at $4 a share was “not my finest hour”. The shares and GDRs are now trading at $9, which is below their $10 debut, but he argues that most investors bought into the stock at between $4 and $5, and have secured a good return. The company’s current market capitalisation is $1.7bn.

News of Zhaikmunai’s plans comes amid wider concern about corporate governance in overseas companies that are seeking a full London listing. A global survey of more than 1,000 executives of multinational companies published on Monday by Allen & Overy, the law firm, underscores that anxiety.

The survey found that more executives from Russia than anywhere else believe investors should prioritise best returns rather than governance. Respondents from the US and the UK stood out in responding that investors could push through international best practice in accountability and board structure.