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Report: Minority shareholder moves to increase stake in Orient Express

Public Stock Co. Orient Express Bank minority shareholder Artem Avetisyan initiated proceedings against the lender's main shareholder, Evison Holdings, to enforce the execution of a call option agreement regarding a 9.99% stake in the financial institution, Vedomosti reported.

The case was lodged with a Russian arbitration court by Finvision Holdings, a company through which Avetisyan holds a 32% stake in the bank. Evison Holdings, controlled by Baring Vostok Capital Partners Ltd., owns 51.6% of the lender.

The parties concluded the call option agreement in 2016 before the merger of Orient Express Bank and Uniastrum Bank, controlled at the time by Avetisyan. Under the agreement, Finvision Holdings was given the right to purchase a 9.99% stake in Orient Express from Evison Holdings by March 31, 2018, but was not able to successfully execute the call option, the March 20 report noted.

A representative of Baring Vostok told Vedomosti that the company was of an opinion that the call option agreement did not have a legal power because Finvision Holdings had violated its terms and conditions. Baring Vostok's founder, Michael Calvey, said earlier that his company refused to fulfill its obligations under the agreement because Uniastrum Bank shareholders had withdrawn assets from the lender before its merger with Orient Express, the newspaper added.

Calvey was recently detained over an alleged embezzlement of 2.5 billion Russian rubles from Orient Express. The businessman denies any wrongdoing, claiming that the accusations are part of the ongoing corporate dispute with Avetisyan over control of Orient Express.

As of March 20, US$1 was equivalent to 64.34 Russian rubles.