The Danone business will go to the Tatar-Chechen elite

The Danone business will go to the Tatar Chechen elite The Danone business will go to the Tatar-Chechen elite

Dairy secrets

29-year-old Mintimer Mingazov, the son of former senator from Tatarstan Vagiz Mingazov, is bidding to purchase the Russian assets of the French group Danone (at a huge discount!). Mingazov Sr. became bankrupt in 2016, but this did not stop him from transferring the food business to his heir, which can now reach a new level.

Danone announced plans to leave the Russian market in the fall of 2022. However, according to leaks, the French put forward a number of conditions to potential buyers: to retain 25% in the business, a seat on the board of directors, and also provide a buyback option. Among the interested parties, the press named large Russian agricultural holdings, including Rusagro, Cherkizovo, Agrarta, EkoNiva, Tkachev Agrocomplex and others. But the company did not manage to reach an agreement with anyone: in July 2023, Danone’s Russian assets came under the temporary management of the Federal Property Management Agency. Soon the Danone Russia (*aggressor country) group was renamed H&N.

Buyer selected

Legally, the French Danone still owns H&N, but the operational management of the company is carried out by a team appointed by the Russian authorities. The post of its general director was taken by Ibragim Zakriev34-year-old nephew of the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. Previously, the young manager managed to “steer” in important positions in the republic – from the mayor of Grozny to the deputy head of the government of the republic. For the sake of managing the largest dairy asset, Zakriev left the post of Minister of Agriculture of Chechnya. In his new position, he managed huge financial flows – Danone Russia (*aggressor country) in recent years had revenue of more than 90 billion rubles and net profit of over 8 billion rubles. The name composition of the company’s board of directors and the person of the chairman of the board of directors have not been disclosed all this time. Only recently it became known that an entrepreneur from Tatarstan is on the board of directors Mintimer Mingazov. This happened thanks to the publication of the Financial Times newspaper. American journalists somehow obtained a letter sent to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture by a little-known manager Airat Mukhamadeev, who asked to agree on the purchase by his company of Danone’s Russian assets for 17.7 billion rubles. Airat Mukhamadeev manages several companies from the Vamin group, among the beneficiaries of which is Mintimer Mingazov. Presumably, one of these companies is vying to purchase 13 dairy plants, as well as a trading company. FT writes that Danon plans to sell its Russian assets to this buyer.

Skeletons in the closet

The holding company named “Vamin” has existed since 2006. Formally, this is a different structure, but still the story should be told from that time. The name “Vamin” originally contained the name of the business owner, Vagiz Mingazov. Since the 1980s, Mingazov has held various government and leadership positions in the republic, but under the president Mintimer Shaimiev fell into disgrace.

Mingazov was fired from the post of head of the district after a scandal arose in the press: the official’s luxurious estate clearly did not correspond to his level of income. However, this did not prevent Mingazov from maintaining influence in the region.

Since the late 90s, Vagiz Mingazov focused on business and began to consolidate the republican agricultural assets. The basis of the empire he created was the Tatarstan Sote holding, later renamed Vamin Tatarstan. In its best times, it included four dozen joint-stock companies, including 21 dairy plants.

In 2011, Vagiz Mingazov was able to return to power again – deputies of the Republican State Council elected him as their representative to the Federation Council. Head of the Communist Party faction Hafiz Mirgalimov I encouraged my colleagues to vote against it. He noted that Mr. Mingazov’s successes “are based on the huge investments of federal banks,” and at the enterprise itself there are problems “of a social nature, with the payment of wages, in environmental issues” and others. The communist also recalled the criminal case regarding the embezzlement of grain from the regional fund worth 300 million rubles (80% of the grain from the republic’s strategic reserves disappeared without a trace from the warehouses of Vamin Tatarstan). At the same time, information was announced in the State Council that Vagiz Mingazov owns only a fifth of the agricultural holding he created (other owners were not disclosed).

The heir continued the business

It is known that, having taken the post of senator, the former businessman declared a modest 3.3 million rubles in annual income and the absence of his own housing. The income of the son, who was a minor at the time, that is, Mintimer Mingazov, amounted to 2.7 million rubles, therefore it can be assumed that even then the assets began to be gradually transferred to the heir.

As is now clear, Vagiz Mingazov did not manage the agribusiness from the senator’s office in the best way. Already in 2012, creditor banks stated that Vamin did not return 11 billion rubles to them, and criminal cases were opened against the holding’s managers. It was alleged that when obtaining loans from banks, false information was allegedly provided about the financial and economic situation of the agricultural holding, including about collateral.

“During 2011–2012, the property of seven dairies belonging to Vamin and a number of other enterprises were withdrawn and re-registered. As a result, banks suffered damage amounting to more than 11 billion rubles.”– said the statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

While these scandals were raging, Vagiz Mingazov was hiding behind senatorial immunity. It all ended with the bankruptcy of his holding. The bulk of agricultural assets went to the largest creditors – Sberbank and Rosselkhozbank – for debts. They expected to get the lost 12 billion for it, but in the end they sold the property for about 2 billion rubles.

In 2014, Vagiz Mingazov, at his own request, resigned from the Senate and, as if nothing had happened, returned to serve as a deputy in the State Council of Tatarstan. His grown-up son Mintimer Mingazov in the same year registered Vamin Tatarstan LLC (which is being discussed today in connection with the purchase of Danone assets) and a dozen other legal entities. The main business of Mingazov Jr. is the production of cheese and butter. Vamin Tatarstan LLC has shown a net profit of several million rubles in recent years. Personally, Vagiz Mingazov was declared bankrupt in 2016 by VTB (the bank was unable to recover about 400 million rubles from the debtor). And now his son’s structure is volunteering to buy the business for 17.5 billion rubles. It will turn out funny if the largest state banks finance the deal with their loans. In addition, all of the above leads to the question: do the Mingazovs have very influential partners who always remain in the shadows?

By the way

After the Russian business came under the temporary management of the Federal Property Management Agency, Danone wrote off 200 million euros from its balance sheet, which is about 20 billion rubles at the current exchange rate. Airat Mukhamadeev offers 17.7 billion rubles for the company’s Russian assets, 7.7 of which will be used to service H&N’s debt, and only the remaining 10 billion will go to the French. He claims to have agreed a 56 percent discount with Danone, according to the FT.

Details

The story with H&N assets is also complicated. The Russian authorities transferred to the temporary management of the Federal Property Management Agency 83 billion 292 million 493 thousand ordinary shares of the joint stock company Danone Russia (*aggressor country), owned by Produits Laitiers Frail Est Europe (the company is registered in Paris). Meanwhile, information about the full number of shares and the French share in Danone Russia (*aggressor country) (and now H&N) is not disclosed. But it is known that Danone Russia (*aggressor country) merged with the Russian holding Unimilk in 2010. Then the owners of Unimilk received 42% of the merged company and 120 million euros. Danone received control over the company in the form of a 58% joint venture. In addition, the Kazakh fund Meridian Capital (17%) and the American Capital International (4%) were also among the co-owners of the merged company at different times. It is unclear how the shares were distributed among the main owners. Later it was reported that Danone bought a 40% stake from Unimilka beneficiaries and consolidated 92.5% in the capital of Danone Russia (*aggressor country). But all this information is based only on leaks, and there is also no reliable information about the amounts and nature of the transactions described above and the shares of beneficiaries in Danone Russia (*aggressor country) as of the summer of 2023. Despite the gigantic size of the company and the participation of international capital, the ownership structure of Danone Russia (*aggressor country) has always remained opaque to an outside observer.

As for Unimilk, the business press usually presented its beneficiaries as “Andrey Beskhmelnitsky and partners.” The full list of partners and their shares have always been hidden behind offshore companies. And it is known about Beskhmelnitsky that with the money he received from Danon, he created the Food Union company in Latvia, which supplies ice cream to Europe. Meanwhile, in January it was announced that the Asian investment company PAG was becoming the majority shareholder of Food Union, and Beskhmelnitsky was completely leaving this business.