MOSCOW -- The embattled oil company Yukos suffered a double blow yesterday as bailiffs renewed their seizure of assets of its key production unit and a court rejected its appeal against the arrest of another subsidiary.
The moves were the latest in a series of back-and-forth decisions that have sent the stock price of Russia's largest oil producer on a roller coaster ride and rattled world markets fearing a break in supplies.
The new freeze on assets of Yuganskneftegaz, the core Yukos subsidiary that produces some 60 percent of its crude, reversed one of the few victories the company, which faces a $3.4 billion back-tax bill, has won amid an onslaught from the government.
The move by bailiffs seeking to collect on the bill came just three days after a court declared their seizure of Yuganskneftegaz illegal, easing fears the government would gut Yukos and sell its main asset into Kremlin-friendly hands. In Friday's ruling a Moscow Arbitration Court judge said bailiffs had violated a law that says production assets can be seized only if a debtor lacks cash and other nonproduction assets to cover a tax bill.
But the Justice Ministry said yesterday bailiffs renewed their seizure of Yukos shares in Yuganskneftegaz immediately after the court's verdict, using a new argument, the Interfax news agency reported. They said the shares cannot be considered production tools and therefore can be frozen, it quoted a ministry statement as saying.
Yukos has warned it could face bankruptcy as early as this month if the state does not give it access to frozen bank accounts and sells Yuganskneftegaz, its main cash earner. Yukos said last Wednesday bailiffs had given it access to its accounts, but the Justice Ministry rescinded that statement the next day. In another blow yesterday, the arbitration court left in place bailiffs' arrest of the assets of Tomskneft, another Yukos subsidiary. The decision -- followed by the news of the new Yuganskneftegaz seizure -- came in the evening, after Yukos shares rose 17 percent on Moscow's RTS exchange in the wake of the company's court victory Friday.