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Monday, June 22, 2009

Gazprom Neft on $1bn cash hunt

06-22-2009 - Upstream OnLine - Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom, may issue up to $1 billion in bonds and raise a club loan as it weighs up buying a number of assets in Russia, Kazakhstan and Slovenia, as news emerged that the company had backed down over its choice of chief executive at Sibir Energy. Gazprom Neft boss Alexander Dyukov told Reuters the company was considering buying mid-sized Russian producer Russneft, Kazakhstan's Pavlodar refinery and Slovenia's top fuel retailer Petrol. Gazprom Neft has already spent over $1 billion in the past month to amass a 34 % stake in London-listed Sibir in a move widely perceived as a Kremlin strategy to use the financial crisis to further strengthen its grip over key industries at home and expand its influence abroad. "Petrol could be interesting. We bought (Serbia's) NIS and this is 4 million tonnes of annual oil refining with an option to increase it to between 5 million and 6 million. And we are interested in increasing our (retail) network," Dyukov said. He said talks were still going on about Russneft - the first public revelation that Gazprom Neft could become the ultimate owner of the indebted player, whose shares are now held as collateral with Russia's top lender, state-run Sberbank . "Russneft is a question of price," said Dyukov. He also said the company had no plans to increase its stake in Sibir from 34% after buying out virtually all of the company's free float. He said Gazprom Neft was holding talks with the remaining shareholders, who include several Russian businessmen and the government of Moscow, to manage the asset. Today, Sibir re-appointed Stuard Detmer its chief executive at Gazprom Neft's request, reversing last week's management reshuffle, which saw Detmer replaced by Gazprom Neft's top legal expert Igor Tsibelman. Tsibelman will now become the first deputy chief executive to Detmer, "to ensure the seamless transition of the management of the company", Sibir said in a statement. "Igor Tsibelman's appointment was a (Sibir) board decision ... It was premature to do it. There is a (standard) procedure of handover and it should not take place suddenly," said Dyukov, adding that Sibir was likely to get a new chief executive -- Tsibelman or somebody else - within two to three weeks.

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