CEP20021203000242 Moscow Vedomosti in Russian 03 Dec 02
[Interview with Aleksandr Ryazanov, deputy chairman of the board of Gazprom, conducted by correspondent Irina Reznik: "Interview: Aleksandr Ryazanov, Deputy Chairman of Board of Gazprom;" place and date not given--taken from html version of source provided by ISP.]
[FBIS Translated Text]
Aleksandr Ryazanov: "We cannot always keep the genie in the bottle."
It is for naught that stock market participants hastened to call the concept of gas reform prepared by Minekonomrazvitiye [Ministry of Economic Development and Trade] "a gift to Gazprom." For the monopoly itself, this document was a rather unpleasant surprise. First of all, it proposed that the tariff increases on gas be increased gradually, over a long period of time. Secondly, public officials are for some reason proposing to separate the TsPDU [Central Production and Control Administration] and the transport company from Gazprom. And Gazprom is especially dismayed about the public officials' notions about the gray [semi-legal] market in gas. In general, Gazprom is preparing its "response to Chamberlain," and plans to send it to Minekonomrazvitiye in the next few days. The deputy chairman of the board of the monopoly, Aleksandr Ryazanov, tells Vedomosti about what kind of a gas market Gazprom wants to see in the future, and what it is doing now to achieve it.
[Correspondent] Gazprom has probably already had time to familiarize itself with the concept for development of the gas market prepared by Minekonomrazvitiye. In my opinion, Gazprom could not even have dreamed of a more loyal document. It retains both the integrity of Gazprom, and the unified system of gas provision, proposing only to separate out the transport expenditures. Furthermore, Gazprom is being offered various tax benefits, repeal of the excise tax on gas until 2005, and an increase in domestic prices on gas to $42 per 1,000 cubic meters by 2007.
[Ryazanov] We have familiarized ourselves with the program, and I am currently preparing a response to the main developer, [Deputy Minister of Economic Development Andrey] Sharonov. I will say that this report on gas reform, written by Minekonomrazvitiye, is, to put it mildly, certainly not what we had discussed with the officials in the work group. For the past 2.5 months, we had not met at all. And suddenly, a document appears which was not coordinated with us, and with which Gazprom categorically disagrees on certain principle instances. For example, it says that Gazprom sells up to 65 billion cubic meters of gas a year according to "gray" [semi-legal] schemes. Someone should explain to us what all this means.
[Correspondent] The concept speaks of the fact that, having allowed Gazprom to sell gas "over the limit" at higher prices, the state is unable to monitor the origin of the gas offered by independent suppliers, who are offering it at high prices. As a result, a semi-legal market in gas arises, at which gas produced by the structures of the gas monopoly is in fact being sold at a mark-up to 50-100 percent.
[Ryazanov] In my opinion, everything is very transparent here. All of the Gazprom gas is distributed in balance among consumers. And all of these consumers get gas only at the FEK [Federal Energy Commission] price. There are, of course, certain nuances, when a surplus of gas is taken. For such gas overruns, Mezhregiongaz has the right to charge 50 percent more for this above-limit gas in the winter, and 10 percent more in the summer. We too do not like such a situation. We want to establish strict daily control over these overruns, and Mezhregiongaz is currently developing an electronic program which would monitor the gas overrun for every 24-hour period.
There is, however, another instance: The so-called re-distribution of the limit. Let us presume that one consumer has not claimed all of his [allocated] gas, and we give it to another. But the re-distributed gas must also be sold at the FEK price.
We can, of course, say that someone has re-distributed the gas, making money off of this with the aid of some semi-legal schemes. [Chairman of the Board of RAO (Russian joint-stock company) YeES Anatoliy] Chubays wrote about this to [Chairman of the Board of OAO (joint-stock company of the open type) Gazprom Aleksey] Miller, and even named the middleman companies which are extorting money from the power producers. Today, the Gazprom KRU [Control-Audit Administration] is conducting an audit at Mezhregiongaz based on these documents. It will be completed in mid-December.
Then we will make a decision. We have already taken certain steps. We have raised the level of distribution of limits on gas to the level of Gazprom, and have relegated the role of commissioner to Mezhregiongaz. We want to do everything openly, and not to provide grounds for such suspicions.
[Correspondent] Let us return to the MERT [Ministry of Economic Development and Trade] report. What else does Gazprom not like about it?
[Ryazanov] It states that the Gazprom TsPDU must be separated out and merged with the transport company, creating a separate legal entity on this basis and charging all transport expenditures to it.
[Correspondent] But Minekonomrazvitiye motivates this by saying that Gazprom's expenditures for purchase of gas and its transport are steadily increasing, surpassing the rates of growth of the proceeds from sale of the gas.
[Ryazanov] The data which they use to confirm this are entirely incorrect. This is a mistake. We believe that the transport company, as well as the TsPDU, must remain within the structure of Gazprom, and that the transport expenditures are already now accounted for separately within Gazprom. We hand all these figures over to the FEK on a regular basis. In my opinion, Minekonomrazvitiye does not have a very good understanding of the situation.
Furthermore, the report proposes to do everything gradually, to spread the correction of prices out until as long as 2008. But we believe that we must change over as quickly as possible to the situation whereby the sale of gas in Russia is not performed at a loss. Even the governors, who are most worried about expenditures of their constituents, understand that it is better to have expensive gas than to have it cheap, but unavailable.
[Correspondent] And, is it still unprofitable to sell gas at $35-$42 per 1,000 cubic meters?
[Ryazanov] At $35 per 1,000 cubic meters, we will break even. But we must consider the fact that we are developing new and more expensive deposits. We can, of course, stop investing into new deposits. Our volume of gas drilling would decline, but Gazprom would immediately correct its financial position. But please, if the government is ready for us to drill gas in a volume of 500 billion cubic meters a year, and the rest could be supplied by independents.
[Correspondent] One gets the feeling that Gazprom is prepared to place its full stake on these 530 billion cubic meters of gas.
[Ryazanov] We are given the assignment, and the strategy is determined for us: A minimum of 530. At the same time, we are not being given a price on gas which would allow us to invest in production. As a result, we are experiencing a shortage of funds. We must always keep borrowing on the market and, as a result, paying more and more on debts. All this brings us to the level of financial instability.
[Correspondent] But to this, the MERT officials object that it is not only a matter of the price of gas--Gazprom has huge expenditures and high domestic expenses.
[Ryazanov] In fact, we do have things to work on. I, for example, believe that the facilities which we are building must be cheaper. For this, we must first of all hold open competitions for procurement of resources. For next year, we have planned a cost reduction of almost $1 billion. But there is a rational limit to this process.
[Correspondent] Except that, for the present time, Gazprom is doing everything just the opposite. It has obligated its subsidiaries to buy all equipment only through Gazkomplektimpeks, and it had planned to award all of its building contracts to another 100-percent subsidiary--Gazpromstroyinzhiniring. What kind of competitions are these...
[Ryazanov] Both companies are our 100-pecent subsidiaries. So that this does not keep Gazprom and its enterprises from buying equipment and pipes at producer-sponsored competitions, for example.
[Correspondent] The authors of the gas concept point out that Gazprom is not presenting data on the available pipeline capacities. No one knows how much room there really is there. The monopolist may refuse anyone, especially since, it seems, Gazprom does not have any great interest in developing independent gas suppliers.
[Ryazanov] We specifically do have very great interest in seeing to it that independent producers drill more gas. Because only thanks to them will the real price of gas be formulated. Today, independent producers have too little influence on the gas market. I might add that independent companies, and not only Itera, this year received access to the Gazprom pipeline for transit of 102 billion cubic meters of gas. And often, having access, a company does not pump the gas, or the buyer backs out.
We understand perfectly well that oil producers have licenses to gas deposits, and we will have to come to agreement with them. Otherwise, they will work against Gazprom. We are prepared to invest in transport, and let the oil producers invest into drilling. It is foolish to sit on deposits and not develop them.
As for available capacities, the law on state secrecy does not allow us to publicize this at the present time. Although all interested state structures have full information on this topic. And in general, I agree that this information should be published on the Internet.
[Correspondent] Does Gazprom intend to submit its own proposals on gas reform to the government?
[Ryazanov] We would not like to do this. We believe that we will be able to coordinate our position with Minekonomrazvitiye. We still have time to come to a compromise.
[Correspondent] But for now, it appears that Gazprom has not been able to arrive at a compromise, even on the investment program. Does Minekonomrazvitiye not want to raise gas prices by 40 percent?
[Ryazanov] We have corrected the figure on capital investment. We asked for 188 billion rubles (R), but MERT stopped at R179 billion. With prices on gas, the situation is even more difficult. We even proposed a compromise variant: To make gas more expensive in the winter, raising the price by 50 percent, and cheaper in the summer--by 30 percent. After all, otherwise, with a 20-percent indexation, we would have to correct the budget by almost R40 billion--either to increase the program of borrowing, and then we would have to borrow already not R120 billion, but R160 billion next year, or to reduce the investment program and the volume of production in the coming years.
[Correspondent] Judging by the Gazprom consolidated report, the problem is not always tariffs. For example, from 30 June 2001 through 30 June 2002, Gazprom received a 20 percent increase in the price of gas, but the proceeds from sales on the domestic market remained at almost the same level: R65 billion on 30 June 2002, as compared to R69 billion for the analogous period last year.
[Ryazanov] These, after all, are the data according to the ISAR [International Standards of Accounting and Reporting]. There, the data for last year must be corrected by the value of inflation. And they are corrected by somewhere around 15 percent. But, as you may recall, the 20-percent price increase became effective as of 15 February of this year. And this is where the decline in revenues came from. If we look at these same data according to the RSBU [Russian system of bookkeeping and accounting]--that is, without such a correction--then we had a growth of revenues on the domestic market in the amount of R5 billion. But, of course, the data according to ISAR more precisely reflect the tendency toward decline in the company's revenues--both as a result of the decline in income from export, and as a result of the inadequate indexation of prices on the domestic market. But this is a question not for the company's managers--we cannot influence either the foreign market, or even the domestic market. We can only try to convince the government not to starve the "cash cow."
[Correspondent] One gets the impression that Gazprom and Itera have come into a streak of bad luck. It would seem, Itera has returned all the assets to you--both Purgaz and Armrosgazprom, and it gave away Severneftegazprom on conditions which were clearly unfavorable for it...
[Ryazanov] I believe that we should not follow the path of 2-3 years ago, when Itera was piling up debts and saying, "we will settle accounts later." We have coordinated its debt and signed a settlement agreement in the summer, taking into consideration the fact that Itera had been of great help to us in the Baltic region and Armenia. But, after all, current payments must be paid. And the company has the money to do so. For transit of Central Asian gas, Itera's debt comprised $30 million and, when we limited deliveries there, Itera immediately repaid half of this sum. Within 24 hours, they repaid the entire debt on Azerbaijan--R200 million--for normal economic relations. Why hide it, Gazprom has made many concessions to Itera. We gave them our most solvent market in Sverdlovsk Oblast.
[Correspondent] And now you will take it back?
[Ryazanov] We want to come to agreement on everything. Let them pay normally for transit. After all, there are also some lucrative markets. Why, for example, is it Itera that sells gas to Azerbaijan, and not Gazprom or Gazeksport?
Gazprom may formulate a transit contract for supply of Central Asian gas to Ukraine. We will supply Turkmen gas to Ukraine on the same conditions as Itera, and perhaps even better ones. We will start implementing this already as of next year. Ukraine is suffering today because our limitations on supply of gas to Itera comprise 65 percent. It is not paying us for transit. But when the NAK [national joint-stock company] of Ukraine has a contract with us, I think we will not have these problems. Why, utilizing Gazprom capacities, should Itera get a super-profit?
I believe that, in general, Gazprom has done everything for Itera to make the company viable. At a certain stage, this was justified. They returned our assets, but there should not be any preferences. Only normal cooperation.
[Correspondent] You are limiting Itera's deliveries to Ukraine, and at the same time are prepared to give it an export quota to Poland in the amount of almost 0.5 billion cubic meters of gas. The discussion here centers around the barter scheme of "gas for food," with the Bartimpex firm controlled by Aleksandr Gudzovaty.
[Ryazanov] There is nothing strange about that. Because, to put it mildly, it is not very profitable for Gazprom to supply gas under this contract. We do not want to engage in this. Barter is not for us. But Itera has also come to agreement with the Moscow government, and with Bartimpex, and says that this is profitable for it. They are promising additional procurements of food for Moscow, and therefore we have agreed to this scheme.
By the end of the year, we will evidently allow Itera to pump 230-240 million cubic meters of gas to Poland. And if all the parties are satisfied--and this will also help Gazprom in its mutual relations with Poland (the entrepreneur Gudzovaty was considered to be an influential figure in the Polish government--Vedomosti)--then perhaps next year this scheme will work. It is understandable that we gave away part of our export market. But this is not our market--it will be supplemental gas for Poland. Our contract volumes to Poland will not be reduced.
[Correspondent] There are no more points of dispute between SIBUR and Gazprom. Did the monopoly get everything it wanted?
[Ryazanov] We returned 99 percent of everything that concerns assets. The question remains only in fulfillment of the settlement agreement and repayment of indebtedness. Here, there is a definite problem, because the sum of the debt, including penalties, is very high. And the SIBUR business plan, which is currently being revised, shows that these years will be very difficult for it. First of all, it must reduce expenditures on transport and processing of raw material, and place its subsidiaries on strict estimate calculation. On a cost estimate, the SIBUR enterprises would pay less taxes to the local budgets, which would not be to the liking of the governors. But we cannot make the subsidiary super-profitable, and have SIBUR operate at a loss. We must re-distribute, and ultimately consolidate, the main share of profits at SIBUR, so as to settle accounts with the creditor banks.
[Correspondent] Yakov Goldovskiy's structures had shares in SIBUR itself. Did he return them?
[Ryazanov] He is returning them gradually... Today, we are structuring and consolidating all the assets. For now, Gazprom formally owns the controlling packet in SIBUR, but I hope that, within half a year, we will approach a qualified majority--75 percent of the shares. This will help us not only to successfully restructure SIBUR's business, but also to subsequently attract a strategic investor, all the while retaining actual control.
[Correspondent] Very many packets [of shares] in SIBUR enterprises are today consolidated in the structures of Gazprominvestkholding. Are you going to re-register them to SIBUR or Gazprom?
[Ryazanov] In my opinion, SIBUR should own the subsidiaries. Otherwise, this reduces its capitalization. However, it makes sense to take certain facilities out of SIBUR and transfer them to the Gazprom balance sheet. For example, do we need to have two transport companies--one in SIBUR, and the other in Gazprom? Perhaps it would be more correct to create a single one, which would reduce transport expenditures.
[Correspondent] The SIBUR management wants to return the Surgutskiy GPZ [gas refinery] to the complement of the holding company, but you hold a different position. Have you come to a compromise?
[Ryazanov] You know that there is already an agreement with LUKOIL in regard to the Lokosovskiy GPZ, and one with Rosneft on the Gubkinskiy GPZ.
As for the Surgutskiy GPZ, we have an idea of creating a joint enterprise with Surgutneftegaz between SIBUR and the Surgutskiy GPZ. Such proposals will be formulated by the end of the year. The deal was lawfully concluded, Surgutneftegaz paid the money, and it is incorrect to say that the assets were taken away.
[Correspondent] In the summer, Gazprom and the Kazakh National Gas Company created the SP [joint venture] Kazrosgaz. Certain minority shareholders of Gazprom have doubts about the profitability of this enterprise for the monopoly, and fear that the Central Asian gas which has rushed to export will not be to the benefit of Russian gas export.
[Ryazanov] Our enterprise, Orenburggazprom, where the Kazakh gas is sent for refining, makes fairly good earnings off of this project. Then, Kazrosgaz takes this gas back and sells it to Gazeksport at an entirely acceptable price.
We hope to conclude a long-term contract with Kazakhstan for 7 billion cubic meters of gas a year. It would generally be more correct simply to buy up all the gas from the Karachaganakskiy and Tengiz deposits and to export it. Next year, export of Kazakh gas will increase to 3-4 billion cubic meters of gas, and in 2004--to 6-7 billion cubic meters of gas. We would like Kazrosgaz to itself begin participating in development of the Kazakhstan deposits.
[Correspondent] Are you not afraid that, following the Kazakhstan gas, other Central Asian gas will begin to flow onto the Gazprom export market?
[Ryazanov] We cannot always keep the genie in the bottle. After all, it will get out sometime. Furthermore, for Gazprom it is more economically profitable and expedient to export Central Asian gas than Russian gas. After all, it all depends on who is controlling the export market, and it is still retained by Gazeksport. Central Asian gas is not subject to excise tax. The profitability on it is much higher. And all talk of the fact that Kazrosgaz is an enterprise created to the benefit of the Kazakh side, which does not bring Gazprom any profit, is unfounded.
Aleksandr Ryazanov was born in 1953.
In 1979, he graduated from the Moscow Institute of the Petrochemical and Gas Industry imeni Gubkin and the VZFEI [All-Union Correspondence Finance-Economics Institute].
From 1988 through 1994, Ryazanov served as general director of the Sugrutskiy GPZ. Ryazanov lost his position because of the ex-head of SIBUR, Yakov Goldovskiy. However, before leaving the Surgutskiy GPZ, Ryazanov sold 36 percent of the shares in the Sugrugskiy GPZ to the manager of Surgutneftegaz, Vladimir Bogdanov.
In December of 1999, Aleksandr Ryazanov became a deputy of the State Duma from Nizhnevartovsk.
In 2001, he joined the Unity faction.
According to Ryazanov, that is when he met the chairman of the board of Gazprom, Aleksey Miller, to discuss a number of gas-related questions. Later, Miller called Ryazanov and invited him to come to Gazprom, explaining that "there are many open positions" in the monopoly. Ryazanov told him that he would come to Gazprom only in the capacity of deputy chairman. Miller agreed.
[Description of Source: Moscow Vedomosti in Russian -- Business paper published jointly with The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times; reportedly friendly with Kremlin.]
THIS REPORT MAY CONTAIN COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. COPYING AND DISSEMINATION IS PROHIBITED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE COPYRIGHT OWNERS.