MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Gazprom Neft, Russia's fifth-largest oil producer, is seeking to increase its minority stake in London-listed Sibir Energy to as much as 30 percent, the organizer of its share offer said.
Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital said it would immediately begin purchasing shares in Sibir on behalf of Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.
Analysts have said that Gazprom Neft may be preparing to acquire control of Sibir, but Renaissance said on May 22 that Gazprom Neft has no intention of crossing the 30 percent ownership threshold that would trigger a takeover.
"The price at which shares will be purchased will reflect the level of interest shown by Sibir shareholders," Renaissance Capital said. "All purchases need not be at the same price."
Sibir, whose shares are currently suspended, has become a takeover target since announcing three months ago it was pursuing its main shareholder for a $325 million debt.
Gazprom Neft acquired over 16 percent of the company in April after trumping rival TNK-BP with a bid valuing the company at about $2.8 billion. Renaissance Capital also organized that offer.
Analysts have said previously that Gazprom Neft may be preparing to acquire control of Sibir, although the company itself says it is interested only in acquiring a large minority stake.
Gazprom Neft, like its Russian peers, is pursuing new assets to expand its influence at home and abroad. Already this year the company has bought Italian assets from U.S. oil major Chevron, as well as Serbian oil refiner NIS.
Sibir's main assets include a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell to operate the Salym fields in western Siberia. It also owns the Koltogorsky exploration blocks and the Yuzhnoye and Orekhovskoye fields in the same region.
Downstream, it already shares ownership of the Moscow refinery with Gazprom Neft and Tatneft and also owns the MTK filling station network.