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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gazprom under threat after regulator fine

Federal Anti-Monopoly service fines Gazprom over pipeline access09-09-2008 - Financial Times by Catherine Belton - Gazprom’s hold on Russia’s gas industry appeared to be weakening on Tuesday after a Russian regulator said the state-controlled gas export monopoly would be fined for restricting access for an independent gas producer to its vast pipeline network. Gazprom’s shares fell 7.9 per cent to their lowest level since they started trading on Russia’s Micex stock exchange in January 2006. Investors appeared worried that the fine – which could be anywhere between $6m and $250m – could be only the first in a series of broadsides against the gas giant. The sell-off, part of a broader slump in the Russian market, was also triggered by falling oil prices. The Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said it was pressing ahead with the fine for “violations” of antitrust rules for denying pipeline access to Transnafta, an independent producer in the Tatarstan region. A spokeswoman at the Anti-Monopoly Service said the fine could be as much as 15 per cent of Gazprom’s annual revenue in the “corresponding market”. The move signals a subtle power shift within the Kremlin and the country’s energy sector that may weaken Gazprom’s clout. It follows the appointment of Igor Sechin, Mr Putin’s former deputy chief of staff and chairman of Gazprom’s rival Rosneft, the state-controlled oil major, as the government’s deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector. “Sechin is asking a lot of questions about the entire industry,” said one industry insider speaking on condition of anonymity. “They are deciding the future structure of the energy industry. Sechin is really asserting his authority with Putin’s backing.” Gazprom said it had received notification of the Anti-Monopoly Service’s decision and was considering an appeal. Valery Nesterov, an energy analyst at Troika Dialog in Moscow, said the fine was the “continuation of a campaign” to force Gazprom to open access to the pipeline network for independents, which would, however, stop short of forcing it to give up its monopoly export rights.

Monday, Sept 8, 2008

Gazprom talks tough over Rabaska

08 September, 2008 - Upstream OnLine - Gazprom warned Canada that Russia could easily find an alternative market for its liquefied natural gas if the Canadian authorities try to hinder a deal over the Rabaska LNG project. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last month commercial natural gas deals with Russia could be put at risk because of Russia's military action in Georgia. Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev told the 2008 Reuters Russia Investment Summit today that those comments had surprised the Russian gas giant. "We have been surprised by the statement of the Canadian prime minister that Canada will reconsider the Rabaska project," Medvedev said. In May, Gazprom said it was joining Enbridge, Gaz Metro and Gaz de France in developing an C$840 million (US$791 million) LNG project in Quebec. "If there is a nightmare scenario that for some reason this project will be out of reach of realisation based on a Canadian political decision, then for us it will be easy to find an alternative destination for our LNG," Medvedev told Reuters. "But it will not be good for Canada because they will face a shortage of natural gas." The project would involve Gazprom taking a unspecified stake in the Rabaska LNG terminal on the St Lawrence River at Levis, across from Quebec City. Medvedev said Rabaska's management had assured Gazprom that Harper's statement would not hinder the finalisation of the project. "We are happy Rabaska management do not think this statement is a barrier for finalising the transaction with Gazprom," Medvedev said. The plant's output of 500 million cubic feet of gas per day would supply the Quebec and Ontario markets. The project is scheduled to go ahead in 2014, coinciding with the planned start of a liquefaction plant at Russia's Shtokman gas field.

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