Since October 2022, Ukraine's critical infrastructure facilities have been subjected to massive shelling by the Russian Federation. Despite significant physical damage to the facilities and frequent power outages, the enemy's criminal plan failed. There was no total blackout. YouControl analysts have investigated who owns the largest critical infrastructure energy companies, many of which have been hit by enemy attacks. As it turned out, most companies are owned by the state or domestic private owners. However, a significant share is under foreigners' direct or indirect corporate control. Read a new study about the distribution of energy companies' owners by country, business groups and net income.
YouControl analysts have generated a sample of 367 energy companies among the twenty largest enterprises in each region in terms of net income. They have their main NACE code in section D, "Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply". This most closely corresponds to the critical infrastructure sector of energy supply (in particular, heat supply) according to the Law of Ukraine "On Critical Infrastructure" (Article 9, paragraph 4, subparagraph 2). The study used open individual financial reporting data for 2020, which is public information.
The study showed that out of 367 companies, 61 energy companies (16.6%) have foreign founders or ultimate beneficiaries. In other words, one in six critical energy infrastructure companies has foreign ownership. Ukrainian founders or beneficiaries control 306 companies, respectively.
Shareholders from 18 countries own critical infrastructure companies in the Ukrainian energy sector. The most significant number of companies have owners from Cyprus (23), Germany (6), China (5) and Latvia (5). The list also includes one company from Russia.
The jurisdictions of Cyprus, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria are one of the most popular ways to structure business groups. In most cases, the nominal owners are non-residents with business interests from other countries.
Behind the screen of nominal owners, you can find both domestic and foreign capital, in particular, disguised corporate control by representatives of the aggressor country. It is evidenced both by the affiliation/connection with such informal entities as financial-industrial business groups (some of which are sometimes close to Russian business interests) and the "Russian trace" in the history of individual energy companies revealed by the YouControl Express Analysis.
Rinat Akhmetov, the owner of SCM Group and the wealthiest man in Ukraine according to Forbes magazine, is the beneficiary of 18 companies in the sample of investigated companies. One more energy company has an Akhmetov-controlled company among its shareholders, which owns almost 25% of the shares. VS Energy Group, the 4th largest energy supply company, control over 70% of this company's shares.
VS Energy group, in particular, includes 9 companies operating in the energy sector. Officially, the beneficiaries of the energy companies are citizens of the European Union: Valts Vigants (Latvia), Vilis Dambins (Latvia), Arthurs Altbergs (Latvia), Oleg Sizerman (Germany), Marina Yaroslavskaya (Germany). However, the media associate this group with Russian oligarchs (Alexander Babakov, Evgeniy Giner and Mikhail Voevodin), who are under sanctions in Ukraine. In addition, Alexander Babakov is on the sanctions lists of the EU, the US, the UK, and other countries. In November 2022, the Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv seized shares in the authorised capitals of five companies of the group, which distribute about 10% of electricity in Ukraine.
Rinat Akhmetov's partner in the Metinvest metallurgical holding is Smart Holding, which until January 2023 belonged to Vadym Novynskyi, a member of the Ukrainian parliament of the 8th and 9th convocations. All of the group's assets have been transferred to irrevocable trusts. The group includes 3 energy supply companies. In December 2022, the National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions on Vadym Novynskyi.
The third largest related company operating in the energy sector is the Energy Standard business group controlled by Konstantin Grigorishin. However, Energy Standard holds over 50% of the authorised capital in only one-third of group companies. The rest of the companies are partially owned by the group and have other influential co-owners. Konstantin Grigorishin's partner in six energy companies is Ihor Kolomoisky, a former co-owner of Privatbank and one of the co-owners of the financial-industrial group Privat. The shareholders of these companies are several Cypriot offshore companies, which both businessmen most likely control.
Another partner of the Energy Standard Group in a company belonging to critical infrastructure is Anatolii Boiko. He is the son of Yurii Boiko, a former member of the Opposition Platform – For Life (OPFL) faction (which ceased operations in May 2022, and YouControl wrote about the fate of the "former" members of the OPFL). Currently, Yurii Boiko is the head of the Platform for Life and Peace parliamentary group. In total, the Boiko family controls 3 energy companies. The shareholder of one of them is a Cypriot offshore company associated with the politician mentioned above.
The sister of Yurii Boiko's colleague in the Platform for Life and Peace parliamentary group, Serhii Lovochkin, Yuliia Lovochkina, resigned from her parliamentary mandate at the end of 2022, is a beneficiary of three companies operating in the area of electricity generation and distribution. Her business partner in two companies is Ihor Tynnyi, co-founder of the Ukrainian Association of Renewable Energy and a shareholder of Kyivspetstrans, a company specialising in the removal, disposal and recycling of solid and liquid household waste in Kyiv.
The brother of another former member of the OPFL faction, Hryhorii Surkis, Ihor Surkis, is a beneficiary of two electricity distribution companies. Their beneficiary is also Hennadii Boholiubov, who controls the so-called Privat Group together with Ihor Kolomoisky. Several Cypriot firms that are shareholders of the above companies are also shareholders of another energy distribution company. At the same time, according to the last published declaration for 2020 of former MP Viktor Medvedchuk, his wife, Oksana Marchenko, is a co-owner of offshore companies that are shareholders of three regional power distribution companies.
Nine companies in Ukraine operating in the alternative energy sector are part of CNBM International Corporation (CNBM International), which is part of the China National Building Materials Group Corporation (CNBM). CNBM International was established in 1984 and is directly controlled by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) under the management of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.
The most significant number of companies (31), whose main NACE code is in Section D, "Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply" and included in the sample, belong to Group DF, owned by Dmytro Firtash, who has been in Austria since 2014. The main activity of these companies is gas transportation and trading. The sample also includes 5 gas transportation companies that are part of the Sodruzhestvo group of companies controlled by Viktor Popov, a former deputy of the Kherson Regional Council of the 6th convocation (2010-2015) from the Party of Regions.
In 15 sample companies, the risk factor "Russian trace in history" was triggered in the YouControl analysis system. The Express Analysis tool revealed in the profiles of these companies that the counterparty has a historical connection with a person associated with the Russian Federation. Some of these companies could have been sold after 2014, which Ukrainian and non-Russian foreign owners may own. However, some new owners may be only nominal shell shareholders serving the same Russian business or geopolitical interests.
An in-depth analysis of the branched chains of corporate ownership reveals that, in fact, in as many as 10 companies (and not 5, as it appears from the USR data), the ultimate beneficial owner (controller) or participant of the counterparty is a citizen of the People's Republic of China or registered in its territory. This information is highlighted in the Express Analysis.
One Ukrainian company belongs to a holding (group) whose other member operates under the laws of the Russian Federation. It is another link to a financial-industrial group from the Russian Federation. No "Belarusian trace" was found among the companies studied.
An analysis of energy companies' revenues by macro-region shows that energy consumption is relatively evenly distributed across the vast territory of our country. The total net income of the companies under study in 2020 amounted to UAH 333.1 billion, 26% of which was generated by companies in the Central region of Ukraine. Critical energy infrastructure companies in the West and North each generated 21% revenue. Companies from the East (15.6%) and the South (15.7%) had the lowest incomes and energy consumption. This specificity of the country's robust and geographically diverse energy system partially answers why the aggressor's plans for a complete blackout of Ukraine did not look very realistic initially.
The state or domestic private owners control the most critical infrastructure companies in the energy sector. However, a significant share of companies in the Ukrainian economy sector that is most exposed to missile and drone attacks is under the direct or indirect corporate control of non-residents.
The ownership structure in the energy sector is quite opaque, as evidenced by the high proportion of nominal owners from such jurisdictions as Cyprus, the Netherlands, and Latvia, as well as shareholders from Switzerland and Austria. That is, from countries usually used to cover up actual beneficial owners.
China ranks third in the number of companies under foreign corporate control in the sample of critical energy supply companies, with its residents owning shares in 5 companies. Moreover, an in-depth analysis revealed 10 companies with Chinese capital.
Oligarchic business groups, including Dmytro Firtash, Rinat Akhmetov, Konstantin Grigorishin, VS Energy, Ihor Kolomoisky and several former members of the OPFL, de facto control critical assets in Ukraine's energy sector.
Recent developments in criminal prosecutions, parliamentary resignations and sanctions against several pro-Russian politicians and business people indicate the public importance of increasing transparency of significant corporate control. It also specifies the need for a more detailed analysis of the fundamental changes in the ownership structure of critical energy infrastructure facilities. The connection of a significant part of the owners of critical energy infrastructure with the Russian Federation should be the subject of increased attention and a reason for specific actions by law enforcement agencies to protect national security.
According to Danylo Globa, the Deputy Director of YouControl on Legal Issues, the law stipulates that Ukraine should create a register of critical infrastructure facilities that are most important for society and the state. Currently, there is no such register, only a general sectoral list and classification criteria. However, its creation and content are necessary to analyse risks and threats and prevent them in advance. In times of war, access to specific data in such a registry may be restricted, but only under the procedure established by law.
"Another important issue is the control of infrastructure facilities. Disruption of their functioning may harm vital national interests. From this perspective, the presence of founders or ultimate beneficial owners from the aggressor country is hazardous. With such and other negative factors in place, it would be advisable to provide a mechanism of alternative external state management/coordination of such facilities, at least for the duration of martial law, to reduce the risk of possible threats. After all, a clear definition of the legal status of these facilities is also important, for example, to resolve the issue of the amount of financial support paid to military personnel involved in their air cover and ground defence," says Danylo Globa.
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