Russian Sistema wants a slice of Infineon

Russian corporation AFK Sistema is once again trying to grab a slice of German chip maker Infineon, reports the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD). President Medvedev is trying to garner the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and the Federal Chancellery so the Russian company can buy 29 percent of Siemens former IC unit. Jens Weidmann, an economic advisor in service of the Chancellery, is supposed to make sure Infineon and AFK Sistema have talkies, however there will be no pressure put on Infineon. AFK Sistema first signalled its interest in Infineon in May 2008 and one year later, in August 2009.

Infineon, on the other hand, is absolutely not amused. Sources working at the company told the FTD it is Putin’s desire to lay his hands on Infineon’s technology. Russia could use Infineon to make its navigation satellite network Glonass commercially viable, and could also use the company’s encryption and passport technologies. On top of it all, an involvement by AFK Sistema would hinder Infineon being able to buy western companies. The company is currently riding high on the chip market recovering and has enough money to spend on takeovers and investments.

AFK Sistema could simply buy up to 25 percent of the company’s outstanding shares, without approval from Berlin. This however would lead to a political upset, which the Russians want to avoid.

Should AFK Sistema be able to lay its hands on a 29 percent slice of Infineon, it would siphon off IP to its subsidiary microelectronics company Sitronics. Sitronics is wholly owned by Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who also happens to own 62 percent of AFK Sistema. Yevtushenkov also cooperated with Goldman Sachs, both parties launched a real estate investment fund. He has ties to Moscow’s mayor and power apparatus, as well as ties to the Kreml.

Moscow is apparently a bit peeved that Sberbank and its cronies were not able to buy struggling German car maker and GM subsidiary Opel, known as Vauxhall in the UK. German journalist and author Jürgen Roth recently mentioned in an interview that Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to the Russian mafia organisation Ismailovskaja, would have been on board of Opel if the deal had gone through. 

Roth also exemplified his allegations of German politicians colluding with figures from the world of organised crime by noting Deripaska was invited to a symposium hosted by the European Business School Oestrich/ Winkel, alongside former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Schroeder is now chairman of the Nord Stream AG, a corporation initiated by him and former Russian president Vladimir Putin. The corporation is building a pipeline running through the Baltic Sea between Vyborg, Russia and Greifswald, Germany.

Back in 2006, AFK Sistema was interested in buying shares of German telco giant Deutsche Telekom. Vladimir Yevtushenkov wanted to obtain a 25 percent share, however German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck said there was nothing worth discussing. Germany owns 14,83 percent of Deutsche Telekom, a further 16,87 percent are held indirectly through the government owned KfW bank group.

German foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) warned against an investment by Sistema, saying it ewre gravely concerned about Deutsche Telekom being tied up with Sistema’s telecommunications unit. “We see the danger that unauthorised persons could intrude on communications between public authorities, companies and individuals,” a security expert was cited by German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.