Gazprom op weg naar goud (lees de nr 1 positie in de wereld).
Tuesday, June 20, 2006. Issue 3435. Page 1.
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Schröder Tells Europe to Trust Gazprom
By Stephen Boykewich
Michael Eckels / MT
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schrцder speaking to investors at a conference on Monday morning. He touted Russia as a reliable energy supplier.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said Monday that it was "foolish" to think Europe could reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, even while he insisted Russia was a reliable energy supplier.
"One should not pretend that there is a reliable alternative to Russia," said Schröder, now an executive at a subsidiary of Gazprom, at the start of a two-day investment conference organized by Renaissance Capital.
"Mutual dependency can create trust between Russia and Europe. Europeans know that there is no truly reliable alternative to Russia as an energy partner," Schröder said.
The interdependence of Russian energy suppliers and European consumers is a theme frequently struck by President Vladimir Putin. Schröder, however, added a confrontational note to the proceedings, saying, "Europe should not pretend that Russians have to be grateful for being allowed to supply oil and gas to Europe."
Still, he insisted Russia was "a reliable supplier," saying it had honored its supply contracts for decades during the Cold War.
The former chancellor became a natural spokesman for Russia's energy agenda in Europe when he accepted a $300,000-per-year job as chairman of the Gazprom-led North European Gas Pipeline consortium last December, shortly after leaving office.
Schröder came under heavy fire in Germany for personally benefiting from the nearly $5 billion project he had lobbied hard for as chancellor.
The pipeline, which Gazprom is building with German firms BASF and E.On, is planned to start shipping 27.5 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to European markets in 2010.
The project is one of the largest-scale instances of Russian-European energy cooperation, and was touted by a later conference speaker, Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Ryazanov, as a way to increase the reliability of gas supplies to Europe.
Eighty percent of Russian gas currently reaches Europe through Ukraine -- a situation that caused Russian gas supplies to Europe to fall in January when Gazprom reduced supplies during a price dispute with Ukraine.
The shortfalls set off an ongoing European debate about Russia's reliability as an energy supplier.
Ryazanov on Monday reasserted Gazprom's position that Ukraine had caused the shortfalls by siphoning off gas meant for Europe. He also reiterated warnings that Ukraine could be driven to siphon gas again this winter, as the country has not, by Gazprom's calculations, saved enough gas in its storage facilities.
He said fears that Gazprom's overall gas production would not keep pace with rapidly rising European demand were unfounded, citing plans to increase production from 548 billion cubic meters last year to 660 bcm by 2010, and 830 bcm by 2030.
European demand for natural gas will reach 817 bcm by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.
Part of Gazprom's new production will come from the Yuzhno-Russkoye field, near Tomsk, which will start production next year and supply 25 bcm by 2007, Ryazanov said.
The choice of partners for another key Gazprom development, the massive Shtokman gas field in the Barents Sea, has been "practically completed," Ryazanov said.
U.S. oil majors Chevron and ExxonMobil are shortlisted to help develop the field, which contains 3.7 trillion cubic meters of gas, as are France's Total and Norway's Norsk Hydro and Statoil.
Ryazanov was bullish about Gazprom's future market prospects -- perhaps not surprisingly, given the presence of dozens of major investors at the annual conference.
"We believe that in time, we can become the top company in the world, surpassing the leaders that currently stand ahead of us," Ryazanov said.
Gazprom became the world's third-largest company by market capitalization in May, before falling several places as Russia's stock market and those in other developing countries slid over the past month.
A market dive last week, during which the Russian Trading System fell 9.4 percent, raised speculation that the hotly anticipated IPO of state oil firm Rosneft might be delayed from its current target date of July 14.
Rosneft CFO Peter O'Brien said there was no such risk. "The market volatility at this time clearly makes things a bit more interesting," O'Brien said. "But despite the recent volatility, we have no intention to change our plans."
Rosneft plans to raise as much as $14 billion on stock exchanges in London and Moscow in the largest IPO in Russian history. Bankers working on the deal have said the Kremlin set the timing of the listing -- one day before Russia hosts the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg -- to emphasize Russia's contribution to world energy security.
O'Brien said that Rosneft had unique stability and growth potential as a state-run company, and outlined plans for rapid oil production growth to 2 million barrels per day by 2010. The company produced about 1.5 million bpd last year.
The CFO dismissed concerns about the possible litigation risks facing Rosneft, which include a U.S. lawsuit by investors charging that Rosneft illegally appropriated its main production unit from shattered oil major Yukos.
Rosneft has "been through an intensive due diligence process," and the company's legal team is "highly confident" about the outcome of future litigation, O'Brien said.
The sunny view was in line with comments from numerous other energy company representatives at the conference, including TNK-BP CEO Robert Dudley, who rejected an investor's question as to whether the company was being "encircled" by Gazprom.
The state gas monopoly has been blocking TNK-BP from developing the massive Kovykta gas field in Eastern Siberia for several years. TNK-BP wants to ship Kovykta gas to China.
"All large cross-border gas deals take a long time to work out," Dudley said. "I believe we will work out a deal with Gazprom" to develop the field, he said.
A sour note was injected into the conference when presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said that Russia was being unfairly excluded from certain clubs of world leaders.
"Because of some foolish misunderstanding, we don't get through face control at a number of closed clubs like WTO, OECD and finance ministers' meetings of the G7," said Dvorkovich, the head of the presidential administration's economics department.
"Without Russia, problems concerning the development of the world financial and energy systems, problems of international terrorism and migration, cannot be solved," he said.
Staff Writer Valeria Korchagina contributed to this report.