Former head of Naftogaz Kobolev connects his dismissal with $2 bln in company's accounts
Former head of the board of NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy Andriy Kobolev rejects accusations that the company allegedly created a "hole" in the 2021 state budget for UAH 10 billion, considers the accumulated $2 billion of Naftogaz free funds to be the real reason for the dismissal, although the company informed the president and the government about plans to transfer UAH 32 billion to the state budget in addition to taxes this year.
"We understand that they were counting on our money - for UAH 10 billion. Our plan was to replace dividends with one or another payment (the technology can be discussed - from government bonds to 'advance payment of dividends') in the amount of UAH 32 billion [...] This is the plan, which I communicated to the prime minister and the president, they know about it," he said in an interview with Interfax-Ukraine.
Kobolev also said that the government was also informed in advance that instead of the planned profit in the financial plan of UAH 11 billion, there would be a loss, since Naftogaz had repeatedly warned about the problem of non-payment of gas supply companies and the need to form reserves for these receivables.
The ex-head of the board said that on the date of his dismissal, the company had more than $2 billion of free funds on its account, and seven billion cubic meters of natural gas owned by Naftogaz in underground storage facilities, and this is a confirmation of its financial stability.
"Thus, with the financial plan, which, unfortunately, was not approved for us this year, we were going to ensure the safety of the next winter, ensure all investments in production and transfer another UAH 32 billion, in addition to all standard tax payments," he said.
Kobolev said that recently the company had a very difficult conversation with the Ministry of Finance, "which accused us that we are hiding some money and are not showing something," since the funds in the Single Treasury Account were significantly less than that of Naftogaz.
"As a leader who thinks about winter and other big challenges, such as hindering the completion of the Nord Stream 2 construction, I understood the need to plan our activities in order to ensure that Naftogaz is financially balanced," the ex-head of the board explained the need to create such a reserve of free funds. He also said that Ukraine cannot claim to stop Nord Stream 2 if it creates risks of interrupting transit through its territory.
"What is security for next winter? It's enough money. Out of $2 billion, we were ready to transfer UAH 32 billion, that is, more than $1 billion, to the budget, one way or another [...] Therefore, when they say 'Kobolev, you have too much money," then, firstly, it is not mine, it is money of Naftogaz state-owned company. Secondly, this money is needed to perform important tasks: production, security of supplies, projects and other things," former head of the board said.
He reported that the company and he were fulfilling the tasks under the contract, including maximizing transfers to the budget, which were record high in 2020.
"If someone wants to tell us how to do, and what not to do, then it's not interesting for me to work. I'd rather be fired for doing the right thing, but the shareholder disagreed with me than I would do wrong things, and they will release me in autumn, when there are empty underground facilities or we fail other important projects," Kobolev said.
He said that Naftogaz was and remains the main source of filling the budget, and the management sought this within the framework of legislation and in the interests of the company.
"Therefore, my approach to my position was and remains pragmatic: if I have to work according to the declared rules (of corporate governance, in the first place), then it's interesting for me to work. If the rules are changed in the direction of returning Naftogaz to the operational management of state authorities (namely, this happened on April 28 in terms of consequences), then I do not see the point," Kobolev said.