Russian court nationalises seized car dealership Rolf

Adds detail from paragraph five onwards

Feb 21 (Reuters) - A Russian court on Wednesday ordered that ownership of shares in car dealership Rolf and its founder Sergei Petrov's income be handed over to the Russian state, Russian news agencies reported, effectively nationalising the company.

Russia's Prosecutor General's Office filed a lawsuit in St Petersburg's Moskovsky District Court in January seeking the seizure of all shares in Rolf and affiliated companies as "property obtained in violation of anti-corruption legislation".

Judge Natalia Malakhova ruled that all Rolf's shares should be handed over as "public revenue", the TASS news agency reported. Petrov and Rolf did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In December 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed Rolf under temporary state management, a move the Kremlin said was driven by "economic expediency and compliance with current legislation."

At that time, Petrov told Reuters: "Temporary (management) means permanent."

He called the move another blow to Russia's investment landscape, questioning whether any investors from Asia, for example, would risk buying stakes in Russian assets.

Rolf, owned by a Cyprus-based firm, was one of the first car dealerships to emerge after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Petrov, who lives in Austria, is accused by Russian authorities of illegally moving money abroad, which he denies.

Moscow has placed other foreign-owned assets under temporary management, including those owned by Danish brewer Carlsberg CARLb.CO and French dairy giant Danone DANO.PA, but the move against Rolf was the first time a high-profile Russian businessman has been relieved of his property in this way.

A pro-war Russian businessman plans to take over Danone's Russian assets for 17.7 billion roubles ($191.8 million), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

Petrov was one of a handful of Russian businessmen to sign a letter in 2014 criticising the damage to East-West relations after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Russian investigators launched an investigation into Rolf in 2019, accusing it of buying shares at inflated prices, a charge Petrov denied and said could be linked to his political views.

($1 = 92.2830 roubles)

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Jonathan Oatis)

((alexander.marrow@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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