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Russian drug distributor seeks Veropharm bankruptcy

A payment dispute between Russian pharmacy chain 36.6 and drugs distributor Protek heated up on Tuesday when Protek said it was suing for the bankruptcy of 36.6's drug making unit Veropharm.

"Despite the court's backing of Protek's demands, 36.6 is in no hurry to meet its payment commitments for goods that have been delivered," Protek said in a statement.

But 36.6 said it had settled debts with Protek at the end of last year and there was no reason for Protek to file for Veropharm's bankruptcy.

Veropharm acted as the guarantor in a 22 million rouble ($697,300) deal between Protek and another unit of 36.6 and Protek said the guarantee made Veropharm liable for payment in the deal, which it said it never received. "We have settled all payments owed to Protek for which Veropharm acted as guarantor," 36.6 spokeswoman Irina Lavrova said. "We do have unpaid debts to Protek, but they are in no way connected to Veropharm guarantees."

Russia's largest pharmacy chain, 36.6 owes a total of 225 million roubles to Protek, the owner of Russia's second largest drug retailer, Rigla.

Since the end of last year, Protek has filed more than 140 legal claims against 36.6 and its subsidiaries over payments for delivered goods.

The total debt for drug purchases of 36.6 at the end of the first half of 2009 amounted to $166 million, according to a report released by investment firm Rye, Man & Gor Securities, which cited the management of 36.6.

The indebted pharmaceutical chain has defaulted on 1.9 billion roubles in bonds and is now in talks to restructure its outstanding bonds and loans.

It had planned to settle its debt issues by selling off a controlling stake in Veropharm, but has delayed the sale, saying it had not received any attractive offers for the stake, according to the Rye, Man & Gor report.

Protek has 18 percent of the market for wholesale pharmaceuticals and has its own chain of 580 pharmacies.

36.6 has a retail chain of around 1,100 stores and had $125 million in revenue in the second quarter of 2009. Its main beneficiaries are Artem Bektemirov and Sergei Krivosheyev. 

($1=31.55 Rouble)


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