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Shareholder abuser Yukos seeks to win over sceptical oil investors

Investors' memories are notoriously short but a 1,000% increase in the share price of Yukos, Russia's second largest oil company and its most notorious shareholder rights abuser, seems to denote nothing less than mass amnesia.

Yukos has been on a charm offensive since the start of the year and investors are beginning to buy. What is changing attitudes is not so much the hype as the company's performance. To encourage investors' confidence that the company intends to put its money where its mouth is, it paid out $100 million in dividends in September: a rare event in Russia.

"It is now clear that management are going to develop this company," says Eric Wigertz, an analyst with Brunswick Warburg in Moscow, "and I believe that now they are interested in realizing shareholder value."

Management is thought to hold between 65% and 85% of the stock. Currently trading at about one and half times earnings, Yukos could be worth a lot more than it is presently.

Yukos reported $1.4 billion profit in 1999 and this year issued for the First time three years of international standard (GAAP) accounts. The lack of transparent accounting has long been a big complaint of foreigners investing in Russia.

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