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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gazprom capitalization to hit $1 trln by 2021 - deputy chairman

MOSCOW, April 25 (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom's deputy board chairman said Tuesday the company's market capitalization would rise to $1 trillion in the next 10-15 years, more than four times its current $240 billion. Alexander Medvedev, in London for the Russian Economic Forum, also said a Gazprom bid for Britain's largest gas distributor, Centrica, was possible, and that a third company could be involved in construction of the North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP). "I won't deny that Centrica is seen as a potential acquisition target," he said, but denied that talks are ongoing. Medvedev, who also heads Gazexport, Gazprom's export arm, said the Russian energy giant now ranks sixth by capitalization among the world's largest public companies, and third among publicly traded oil and gas companies. Capitalization has been steadily rising since the government removed the "ring fence" from around the company that had prevented foreigners from owning its common stock. The ambitious NEGP, which will see construction of a major pipeline from northwest Russia to north Germany, could include a third company, Medvedev said - but only if Gazprom maintains its dominant share. "We are not ruling out that a third party could be attracted to this project with Gazprom keeping its share. This decision will be made by July," he said. Gazprom is project manager for the $10.5-billion project, which will eventually see 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas pumped to Germany across the Baltic Sea floor. The company has a 51% stake in the project, with Germany's BASF and E.ON acting as the second partner, each with stakes of 24.5%. Medvedev also slammed the Energy Charter Treaty, designed to regulate free market relations in the energy sector, saying Russia was right not to ratify it. "We heard no comment from the Energy Charter secretariat during the dispute [over gas prices] with Ukraine. This proves that the document was stillborn and does not reflect real market conditions in most of its provisions," he said. Russia has also refused to ratify transit protocol to the charter, on non-discriminatory access for companies and countries to Russian pipelines, primarily the gas pipeline network. Russia says the charter should be amended. All the EU members and 51 other countries have joined the charter since it was adopted in 1991. Seventeen countries and 10 international organizations hold observer status. The United States has not signed the document. Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Medvedev said Gazprom would retain its monopoly on exports of Russian gas for years to come. "I believe Gazprom's export monopoly will remain [in place] for several decades," he said. "We have enough assets to meet demand from Europe, North America and the Far East."

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