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Intelligence Online Details Gazprom's 'Robust Performance,' Russia's Oil Strategy

EUP20020726000404 Paris Intelligence Online WWW-Text in English 26 Jul 02

[FBIS Transcribed Text]

The world's leading gas producer, Gazprom, is working to achieve Russian president Vladimir Putin's goal of competing with the Gulf states.

    The Kremlin's strategy has made progress despite some glitches springing from the past.

Overall, Gazprom has been making headway in the 18 months since its pro-Yeltsin management, accused of robbing the group, was thrown out and replaced by executives loyal to president Vladimir Putin (the Russian government owns 38.5% of the group). The new management under Alexei Miller has just achieved its goal of producing 520 billion cu.m. of products in 2002 and is counting on net earnings of 63.5 billion rubles in the current financial year.

    That robust performance can only give a boost to the Kremlin's desire to take advantage of energy opportunities arising out of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and particularly following an agreement signed with U.S. president George W. Bush during his trip to Moscow in May.

Putin is now determined to see Russia form part of a common energy pool with the European Union and is calling on Brussels to do away with restrictions on energy imports from non-EU nations.
    But achieving such expansion means overcoming a number of obstacles. For instance, Gazprom will need to build new gas pipelines and invest in modernizing older ones. With regard the pipeline between the Siberian gas field of Yamal and Western Europe, Gazprom plans to acquire the Polish firm PNGig in order to ensure funding for three compressor stations. Once built, they will increase the capacity of the pipeline, opened in 2000, from 20 billion cu.m./year to 33 billion in 2003.

    An accord between the Russian and Polish governments provide for the Poles to take a $150 million stake in the venture.

    In Western Europe, Gazprom teamed up with Gaz de France and Ruhrgaz this month to acquire a 49% holding in the Slovak firm SPP for $2.7 billion. SPP has a delivery capacity of 90 billion cu.m./year. But on the eastern side of the CIS Gazprom is also bolstering its position. Early this month it acquired 15% in a consortium that will manage China's biggest gas pipeline, a 4,000 km line running to Shanghai from the troubled province of Zinjiang.

    As for resources, the new gas fields to which Gazprom has access guarantee its future even though funding for some of the fields will come from abroad. For instance, France's TotalFinaElf has just begun talks to join a consortium formed by Conoco, Norsk Hydro and Fortun that will exploit the Chtokman field in the Barents sea. It has an identified annual production potential of around 70 billion cu.m., probably for 30 to 40 years. But production won't start until 2010 and development costs of the field are estimated at $20 billion, of which $7 billion in the medium-term.

    To help finance its extensive modernization program, Gazprom has just borrowed $250 million from Societe Generale guaranteed against future production over a six year period. The terms depend on the loan also being partly guaranteed on future deliveries from the Czech importer Transgaz, based on a long-term export contract for natural gas that Transgaz signed previously with Gazprom.

    According to observers, the fact that Societe Generale is putting up the entire loan reflects Russia's return to the good graces of Western banks. Still, not all of the negative factors in Gazprom's operations have been eliminated. For instance, the local price of Russian gas remains below world prices in order to jibe with the government's anti-inflation policy. This has reduced money available for upgrading equipment.

    There are also problems dating from Gazprom's ?bad old days.? According to judicial sources, the former management team close to Rem Vjehirjev has succeeded in siphoning off between $2 and $3 billion per year through a complicated raft of offshore firms that remain operational. The murder of a Gazprom executive by professional hitmen in Novgorod on July 20 makes it plain that organized Russian crime still wants its part of the Gazprom cake.


[Description of Source: Paris Intelligence Online WWW-Text in English -- Internet subscription service run by the French Indigo Publications press group (root URL: devoted to providing political and economic intelligence ]


Russia: Gazprom's profits to fall in 2002

CEP20020726000124 Moscow Interfax in English 1112 GMT 26 Jul 02

[FBIS Transcribed Text]

  MOSCOW. July 26 (Interfax) - Gazprom's profits in 2002 will fall, company executive Alexander Kruglov told journalists on Friday.
  He said that the main reason for the drop in profit is a drop in gas prices on the external market. Kruglov noted that while in the first quarter 2001 the average price for gas in Europe was $120 per 1,000 cubic meters, in the first quarter this year this had fallen to $92 per 1,000 cubic meters.
  The executive did not say by how much profit would fall. However, he noted that the expected drop would not be critical for the company.
  Gazprom experts said on Thursday that a drop in the company's profit was likely.
  Gazprom unconsolidated net profit in 2001 amounted to 71.9 billion rubles, up 62% from 2000.
  Kruglov said that Gazprom's financial situation might be improved by resolving the problem of accounts receivable with buyers of gas. The largest reserve in this area is the CIS, particularly Ukraine and Belarus, he said.
  Gazprom is currently involved in talks with Ukraine on a method for payment of gas debt amounting to $1.4 billion. According to Kruglov, the company is not currently satisfied with Ukraine's proposal to pay the debt in the form of Eurobonds. However, he said that Gazprom has not totally rejected this idea, and that the financial conditions for supplying the company with Naftohaz Ukrayiny Eurobonds needs to be discussed.
  Kruglov also said that at the moment the company is completing preparation of an international report for 2001. The need to include information on SIBUR activity has caused some delay with the publication of this report.
[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]


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