The Sova Sanctions - Can Anyone Feel Safe?

Posted on Mar 07, 2023. by NTI

Had John le Carré still been alive he would have taken inspiration for a novel, 'The Sova Sanctions', and almost certainly David Tennant would be lining up to play a lead role, as he appears in everything else at the moment (he picked up our bins on Monday morning).

The plot? Sova Capital, a London broker controlled by Russian banker Roman Avdeev, collapses following the sanctions applied by the British Government as a response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Agents from T.E.N.E.O. make a dash to the UK courts, seeking approval to sell a pile of Russian securities to Avdeev in a complex and unconventional attempt to shift illiquid Russian assets. (In the distance a single shot is fired, breaking the stillness of a crisp March night on The Strand.)

Lawyers acting for the agents T.E.N.E.O. tell the High Court that Avdeev, the broker's former controlling shareholder, plans to swap a £233 million creditor claim he has against Sova in return for a discounted purchase of its portfolio of Russian securities, valued in court filings at a notional £274 million. 

"Notional? Indeed Mr Avdeev." A large ginger cat is stroked.

Special Administrators were appointed to Sova last year in response to a portfolio of Russian assets becoming trapped within the broker and in Moscow a ban on institutions from nations that have imposed sanctions on Russia from trading on the country's stock market had prevented T.E.N.E.O. from selling Sova's Russian securities on the Russian exchange.

The plot thickens.

It seems that Avdeev's offer, made by a vehicle controlled by the Russian banker, was "the only alternative", but meanwhile - late in Chapter 5 - Boris Zilbermints, another Russian creditor of Sova, filed an objection to the court on the basis that Avdeev's credit bid should not be permitted under UK insolvency laws. (Apparently, 'Zilbermints' are not the type that fizz in your mouth and have a soft, chewy centre. It is actually the name of a character with an interest in Sova.) 

In a dusty London gentlemen's club, international investors who have been stranded with Russian stocks and bonds worth tens of billions of dollars when they were freely tradable, gather under thick clouds of cigar smoke plotting ways to start testing the limits of what is permissible to liberate their money.

Zilbermints leads this cabal and the London courts convene to hear the next, murky applications.


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