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Russia's Gazprom gas company may sell $8 billion of non-core assets

CEP20021211000018 Moscow Interfax in English 0656 GMT 11 Dec 02

[FBIS Transcribed Text]

  MOSCOW. Dec 11 (Interfax) - Russian gas monopoly Gazprom could sell non-core assets worth about 8 billion rubles by the end of 2002, a source close to Gazprom's management told Interfax on Tuesday evening.
  The Gazprom board addressed this issue at a meeting on December 10.
  "It was originally expected that earnings from the sale of non- core assets could reach 9 billion rubles in 2002, but later the NTV television company was excluded from this list. Without this asset taken into account, earnings could have been roughly 4.5 billion rubles, but Gazprom has already sold 5.5-billion rubles' worth of non- core assets, and this figure could reach 8 billion rubles by the end of the year," the source said.
[Description of Source: Moscow Interfax in English -- non-government information agency known for its aggressive reporting, extensive economic coverage, and good coverage of Russia's regions]


Russia's Gazprom To Increase Investment by 50 Percent in 2003

CEP20021210000459 Moscow ITAR-TASS in English 1841 GMT 10 Dec 02

[FBIS Transcribed Text]

  By Natalya Slavina
  MOSCOW, December 10 (Itar-Tass) - Russia'a major producer of natural gas, OAO Gazprom, has drafted an impressive investment program for next year, envisioning a 50 percent increase of total investment compared with the monies invested in 2002.
  Materials that the corporation has prepared for a regular session of the cabinet of ministers, due December 11, indicate that Gazprom has earmarked an investment resource of 188 billion rubles, 80 percent of which will be used to boost extraction and transportation of natural gas and to maintain existing pipelines.
  At the same time, sources at the Russian Economics and Development Ministry said Gazprom's investment plans for next year did not go beyond 180 billion rubles. They also noted the "higher than normal" costs of construction projects the gas giant carried out this year, saying the excess stood at about 20 percent and the construction works were not efficient enough.
[Description of Source: Moscow ITAR-TASS in English -- main government information agency]

Gazprom plans to raise gas prices in 2003

CEP20021210000026 Moscow ITAR-TASS in English 0533 GMT 10 Dec 02

[FBIS Transcribed Text]

  MOSCOW, December 10 (Itar-Tass) --The Gazprom public joint-stock company considers it necessary to raise gas prices by 40 percent for industrial users and by 20 percent for the population in 2003. In this case Gazprom's revenue increment may additionally amount to 52,000 million roubles so that the company would be able to reach out to self-financing level by 2006, Yelena Karpel, head of Gazprom's department for economic expert examination and pricing, announced at a briefing, PRIME-TASS reports.
  PRIME-TASS quotes Karpel's statement, made on December 9, as saying that, according to Gazprom's estimates, only with such price hikes the company can ensure a gas production increase up to 10,000 million cubic metres a year. Otherwise, Gazprom may cut down gas production from the current amount of 521,000 million cu. m. down to 490,000 million cu. m. a year.

[Description of Source: Moscow ITAR-TASS in English -- main government information agency]


Russia: Gazprom Selling Gas Through Middlemen, Exceeding Price Limits Set By Federal Energy Commission

CEP20021206000355 Moscow Vremya Novostey in Russian 06 Dec 02

[Report by Aleksandr Grivach and Aleksey Davydov: "Liberalization Getting Around Government"--taken from html version of source provided by ISP.]

[FBIS Translated Text]
    In 2 weeks, the cabinet of ministers will gather at a meeting for which preparations have been ongoing for several years now.   One of the key questions for Russia's economy--the development of the country's gas market--will be placed on the agenda.   Despite the many-faceted nature of the problem, as a rule, there are two main positions at its cornerstone: Liberalization (read--increase) of domestic Russian prices on gas, and de-monopolization of Gazprom.   Moreover, the management of the concern is placing the emphasis on the first component, while Minekonomrazvitiye [Ministry of Economic Development and Trade], in a report prepared for the meeting of government, is inclined toward transformations in both directions at once.   Furthermore, the authors of the MERT [Ministry of Economic Development and Trade] concept state that one of the main enemies of organization of market relations in the sphere of the gas trade is "the system of setting limits on deliveries of gas to its consumers, the size of which weakly depends on the contractual process   (questions of setting limits on gas deliveries to consumers are totally within the competency of the Gazprom structures), and imposing fines for exceeding these limits."   The discussion centers around the detailed listing of the gas balance, which is formally ratified within Minenergo [Ministry of Energy], but final distribution, which affords considerable "freedom of creativity," takes place within Gazprom.   In essence, public officials approve only the main "breakdown" of the gas between the main sectors of the economy (public sector workers, power producers, and other industries).   But deliveries to specific consumers are approved by Gazprom itself.

    "Cutting limits of deliveries is motivated by Gazprom's reduction of gas drilling," states the Minekonomrazvitiye report.   "However, despite the difficulties in appraising the real volumes of set limits (Gazprom does not disclose this information), their amount is significantly less than the real gas deficit (analysis shows that, in 2001, with the company's reduction of the gas drilling volume by 11.2 billion cubic meters, the reduction of the limits was more significant).   As a rule, no real gas shortage is in fact observed at the end of the contractual period, in connection with which we may say that the economic sense of limiting deliveries lies in the plane of above-limit sales of gas at higher prices."

    There is no need to recall that, from the very outset, the regulated domestic market became fruitful soil for creating various "gray" [semi-legal] schemes for extracting additional profits by means of organizing an artificial price shortage.   As one of the market participants explained to Vremya Novostey, a specific enterprise which consumes 50 million cubic meters a month is given a limit at the level of 35 million.   The rest is to be bought through middlemen at a price higher than the one set by the Federal Energy Commission.   In this case, "commission fees" may comprise 10-50 percent.   And the end price is directly proportional to the length of the chain along which the gas goes--that is, the number of middlemen participating in the deal.   According to the estimate of another market participant, the overall volume of gas which is sold according to such schemes comprises a minimum of 30-35 [million] cubic meters a year (that is, approximately 10 percent of the total domestic consumption).   At an average commission rate of 20 percent, the volume of supplemental income for organizers of the schemes equals $4 on every 1,000 cubic meters, or $120-$140 million which are not taxed and not reported.   In other words, already today a significant volume of Gazprom gas, despite the presence of tariff regulation, is traded at rather free prices.   And now this has in fact officially been acknowledged at the departmental level.

    Naturally, these schemes were devised not yesterday and not today, but the hopes for improvement of the situation with the arrival of Aleksey Miller's team were also not justified.   However, after the head of RAO [Russian joint-stock company] YeES Rossii Anatoliy Chubays officially accused the Mezhregiongaz management of selling gas through middlemen, Mr. Miller issued a directive on 14 October (our editorial office has a copy of at its disposal), according to which "the allocation of supplemental volumes of gas to existing and new consumers of the Russian Federation" is charged "to the Department for Marketing and Refining of Gas and Liquid Hydrocarbons."   The manager of this department, Kirill Seleznev, was also instructed to develop the Procedure for Distribution of Gas Resources by 20 October.   Perhaps this is a coincidence, but 2 weeks after Mr. Miller's directive was signed, a number of consumers were faxed a "commercial proposal" from OOO [limited liability company] Mezhregionsnab.   Aside from information about readiness to supply gas over the limit at the FEK [Federal Energy Commission] price for "a commission remuneration in the amount of 10 percent" (moreover, the order may be no less than 100 million cubic meters per year), the message contained an application form addressed to Aleksey Miller for delivery of gas next year.   According to information of Vremya Novostey, the telephone numbers given in the document belong to the Resurssbyt firm, whose founders include a relative of one of the managers of the Gazprom Department on Marketing and Refining of Gas and Liquid Hydrocarbons.   Then again, yesterday our correspondent was unable to reach anyone at these telephone numbers, and the recorded message which "asked" the caller to leave a message or send a fax did not say whom the caller had reached.

    According to an interviewee of our newspaper who asked to remain anonymous for understandable reasons, already today the overall supply of above-limit Gazprom gas through various firms comprises around 2 billion cubic meters for January-February of next year alone.   And it is being offered to potential buyers as [gas] which was not used by consumers in the current year.

[Description of Source: Moscow Vremya Novostey in Russian -- daily paper created in 2000 by disgruntled correspondents from Vremya MN; reportedly has links to the Presidential Administration.]



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