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Orient Express rejects 2.6B ruble offer for stake in company from Calvey case

Public Stock Co. Orient Express Bank rejected an offer from U.S. fund Parus Marine for its stake in Luxembourg-based International Financial Technology Group and asked the fund to reconsider the offered price, RBC reported Aug. 9.

The fund offered to pay around 2.6 billion Russian rubles for the IFTG stake and gave Orient Express time until Aug. 14 to decide on whether to accept the offer. The lender, however, asked Parus Marine to increase the price to 3.7 billion rubes due to losses incurred when acquiring the stake, the newswire said, citing a letter sent to Parus Marine by Orient Express Bank's head Vyacheslav Harutyunyan.

Orient Express became the owner of the IFTG shares following a swap deal involving a loan issued by the bank to First Collection Bureau Non-Public Joint-Stock Co. The transaction, which assessed the value of the IFTG stake at around 3 billion rubles, resulted in accusations of embezzlement against Michael Calvey, the founder of Baring Vostok Capital Partners Ltd., which controlled the bank at the time. One of the lender's minority shareholders and business partners of Russian businessman Artem Avetisyan, who now controls the bank, claimed that the actual value of the IFTG stake was only 600,000 rubles.

Harutyunyan also pointed in his letter to Parus Marine to alleged affiliations between U.S. investor Charles Ryan, who represents the U.S. fund, and Calvey, adding that the lender "understands the desire to help Michael Calvey and to repair the damage caused by the crime of which he is accused."

The lender's spokesperson told RBC Orient Express could consider the purchasing offer again once the price is increased and the fund also drops some other demands included in its bid.

Orient Express is looking to sell its 59.9% stake in IFTG and some other assets to restore its capital levels. Hong Kong-based Pacific World Fund Management and U.K.-based financial company Thompson Crosby, whose partner, ITI Capital, is affiliated with IFTG, were also eyeing the stake, RBC noted.

As of Aug. 8, US$1 was equivalent to 65.15 Russian rubles.