Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Gazprom not seeking world monopoly - Kremlin aide
PARIS, April 26 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Nizamutdinov) - Russia is not interested in seeing energy giant Gazprom monopolize the world market, but does want to see it form partnerships with companies from other countries, a presidential aide said Wednesday. Igor Shuvalov, on a European tour as chairman of an interagency commission on Russia's G8 membership, said the perception that Gazprom's negotiations with foreign companies represented an attempt to create an international gas producers association under Russia's control was incorrect. "In our logic, Gazprom should emerge as a global energy company, forming partnerships with major oil and gas companies throughout the world," Shuvalov told a meeting with members of the French Association of Diplomatic Press in Paris. Shuvalov's comments came in response to widespread concern that Gazprom wanted to dominate the European gas market, and specifically over its plans to acquire Centrica, the U.K.'s largest gas distribution company. He said Russia had never planned "for Gazprom to take over the gas industry in Algeria or Qatar or anywhere else and become a worldwide monopoly." "Gazprom should influence the global gas market - not, however, on its own but together with partners in other countries," Shuvalov said. "Our objective is not an association of gas producers, but a closely interconnected and mixed asset-management system whereby both consumers and producers are part of an integrated business structure," he said, adding that unless that happened "there will be no energy security." Energy security is a top issue currently for Russia, which has named it as its No. 1 topic for this summer's G8 meeting in St. Petersburg. Talking about Gazprom's practical steps, Shuvalov said: "The Germans have put forward initiatives that will link the German and the Russian markets." He also said negotiations are under way with U.S. companies on supplies of liquefied natural gas, and French companies were "also greatly interested in forming a partnership with Gazprom as soon as possible." "We hope that the world's major oil and gas corporations will be buying Gazprom shares and influencing the company's policy," Shuvalov said, adding that restrictions on the circulation of Gazprom shares had been lifted. Gazprom's 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. Deputy board chairman Alexander Medvedev said Tuesday that capitalization currently stood at $240 billion, and would hit $1 trillion in 10-15 years.