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Russia seizes control of St Petersburg airport from German, Gulf investors -decree

By Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree putting St Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport under the temporary management of a Russian company, wresting control from investors from Germany, Qatar and other Gulf states.

The decree, signed late on Thursday, stated that a Russian holding company had been set up to manage the asset, with the rights of German airport operator Fraport and Qatar's sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority among those to be transferred to Russian hands.

"We must first verify the information and examine what this means in future for our involvement in St Petersburg, which we have put on hold since the Russian war of aggression," a Fraport spokesperson said.

The QIA declined to comment.

The airport's management company has 14 co-owners. Russian state bank VTB holds a 25.01% stake, Fraport holds 25%, the QIA holds 24.99% and a consortium of investors including the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Abu Dhabi sovereign fund Mubadala and private equity group Baring Vostok hold the remaining 25%.

The rights of foreign shareholders will pass to two different Russian entities. Russian shareholders will retain their rights.

VTB said it was just a shareholder and declined to comment further.

Russia has placed the assets of a handful of Western companies under "temporary management" this year as foreign firms try to exit the country following Moscow's decision in February 2022 to send tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

The decree stated that airport's foreign shareholders would be able to restore their rights to stakes in the new company if they apply and conclude corporate agreements that comply with Russian laws on foreign investment.

The government will not own the new company, but will appoint its chief executive.

Previous asset seizures saw the nephew of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov put in charge of French yoghurt maker Danone's subsidiary in July and the former head of Baltika Breweries, Taimuraz Bolloev, given control of Danish brewer Carlsberg's stake in the company.

(Reporting by Reuters in Moscow, Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow; additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Gareth Jones, Kirsten Donovan)