Source Why Andrey Guryev's PhosAgro prefers to manage the company through offshore companies. The Phosagro Group announced an increase in the production of mineral fertilizers: sales for the first 9 months of this year amounted to more than 8.3 million tons. Nevertheless, there are fears that the financial condition of the company resembles something like a financial pyramid. According to one version, the Guryev family, which owns more than 48 percent of PhosAgro's shares, is not very interested in its development, preferring to pump money out of the enterprise.
Love for offshores
Phosagro Group is the largest supplier of phosphorus-containing fertilizers in Russia and the third largest in the world. According to Forbes, the Guriev family ranked 24th this year in the ranking of the richest people in Russia with a total fortune of $4.8 billion.
The head of the family, Andrey Guryev, has been in the Forbes rating since the creation of the list of the richest businessmen, back in 2005. He was also involved in politics, for twelve years he was a member of the Federation Council from the Murmansk region.
In 2013, Andrey Guryev resigned from this position. He explained this by the desire to concentrate on business development. But it has been suggested that leaving the Federation Council could be due to Andrey Guryev having expensive real estate in England, and this was prohibited by law in 2013. It was about the old £50 million Witanhurst building located on a plot of 4.5 hectares, the size of which in London is surpassed only by Buckingham Palace. base of chemical assets of Menatep Group, where Andrey Guryev worked for more than 15 years. In 2001, Guryev headed the board of directors of Apatit LLC, a structural division of the group that oversees large deposits. In 2003, the “Yukos affair” began.
The Prosecutor General's Office soon concluded that the state-owned stake in Apatit was privatized illegally: this particular story became one of the episodes of the criminal case No. 1 against Mikhail Khodorkovsky * (recognized as a foreign agent, terrorist and extremist in the Russian Federation) and Platon Lebedev.
Media reports, according to one version, from the moment the group of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev gained control over Apatit OJSC, Andrey Guryev created a network of intermediary firms, including in the Russian offshore zone in Kalmykia, with a complex system of subordination and control.
Allegedly, in order to evade taxes, Guryev could constantly register new firms, closing old ones. Many of the firms through which JSC Apatit sold its products – CJSC Apatit-Trade, LLC PhosAgro-Marketing, LLC Dean and others, have signs of fictitiousness. However, the Yukos case did not cause any trouble for Guryev, and he himself soon gained control of Phosagro.
Andrey Guriev Jr. has been working in the holding since 2004. Studied in England. He started his career as an economist at the Directorate for Economics and Finance, later he dealt with the export of fertilizers. From April 2011, he served as Deputy General Director, and in June he was concurrently appointed Executive Director of Phosagro AG CJSC. In 2013, he became the new CEO of Phosagro, Russia's largest producer of phosphate fertilizers.
The actions of the company's leaders raise many questions. For example, in 2020, PhosAgro placed Eurobonds in the amount of $500 million maturing in January 2025. But two years earlier, in a similar situation, Andrey Guryev said that this would improve the structure of the debt portfolio, which then amounted to about 110 billion rubles. At the same time, it was assumed that the money should be used to repay a more expensive bonded loan placed by Phosagro back in 2013.
Therefore, the media assumed that the financial condition of the company could resemble a financial pyramid like “MMM” by Sergei Mavrodi, when new funds (in this case, credit) serve only to service older debt.
In March of this year , after the European Union included the Guryevs in the new sanctions list, Guryev Jr. resigned as CEO of the Phosagro chemical holding and left the board of directors. His father also left the board of directors.
In November, the US Treasury included other companies of the Guryev family in the SDN List, including the Kaliningrad-registered MCOOO Clovis Enterprises and Adorabella, which own 43.66% of Phosagro shares. These MCOOs were included in the SDN List along with the Swiss Chlodwig Enterprises AG and Adorabella AG, follows from the OFAC report. Through these companies, the Guryevs owned the main stake in PhosAgro until the spring of 2022.
And in the spring of this year, these companies were re-registered under Russian jurisdiction: Clovis Enterprises and Adorabella became residents of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Oktyabrsky Island (Kaliningrad Region). According to the data indicated on the Phosagro website, the shares of these MCOOs were transferred to trusts, the economic beneficiaries of which are Andrey G. Guryev, his wife and daughter.
According to experts, despite the fact that the companies that control PhosAgro are not directly related to the United States, the imposition of sanctions may significantly complicate their operations, in particular, the payment of dividends. But so far these fears have not been confirmed.
In early November, the PhosAgro Group paid its shareholders a multi-billion dollar dividend for the first half of 2022. In fact, the Guryevs received most of the dividends for themselves – 48.4 billion rubles, i.e. almost $ 800 million. If you trust the information of compromising telegram channels, now Guryev is trying to get a special permit to transfer money to Cyprus. At the same time, the media report that Andrey Guryev, the owner of PhosAgro, allegedly does not want articles about him to be published in large Telegram channels. And it seems that either he or someone in his interests is cooperating with Zavesa Media, which offers to remove negative information from the network and organize and block its further posting.
Be that as it may, not only the Guryevs received large dividends from Phosagro. RUB 20.8 billion (320 million dollars) went to the wife of the rector of the Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko – Tatyana. It is the second largest shareholder in the fertilizer manufacturer after the Guryev family. Vladimir Litvinenko gave Tatyana almost the entire stake in Phosagro – 20.60%. According to rumors, it was received for patronage and assistance in solving various problems.
Phosagro has a mixed reputation. Today the company is conducting a series of lawsuits abroad. So, last year, the London court accepted for consideration the claim of the co-founder of PhosAgro, Alexander Gorbachev, against Andrey Guryev Sr. Gorbachev demands to recognize his right to 24.75% of the structure's shares. The amount of the claim is 160.5 billion rubles.
Igor Sychev, head of the PhosAgro tax office, also filed a lawsuit in the High Court of London, claiming 1% of the shares. Sychev claims that in the 2000s he managed to “resolve” the multibillion-dollar claims of the Russian Federal Tax Service, which saved the company 300 million rubles. Allegedly, Guryev promised him 1% of the company's shares for this, but did not fulfill these promises. At that time, 1% cost over $50 million.
Experts believe that it will be extremely difficult to get compensation from Guryev. Mainly because all related assets, including the company's international traders, are placed in trusts. But finding the owners of these trusts is a very difficult and costly business. However, it is too early to put an end to these issues. As they say, there would be a desire.
Also, one should not discount the fears about the financial condition of Phosagro. Some of the actions of its leaders look somehow suspicious. And their many years of family experience with offshore companies speaks for itself. So time will tell whether these suspicions are justified or not.