2 Feb 2010 10:19

Moscow press review for February 2, 2010

MOSCOW. Feb 2 (Interfax) - The following is a digest of Moscow newspapers published on February 2. Interfax does not accept liability for information in these stories.


A Russian consortium, comprised of Rosneft, Lukoil , TNK-BP, Gazprom Neft and Surgutneftegaz (with equal stakes), and PdVSA, signed a contract on Monday to set up a joint venture to develop Junin-6 oil field in the oil belt of the Orinoco River. The contract was signed during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's meeting with a Venezuelan delegation, led by Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez. Under an intergovernmental agreement, signed on September 10 2009, a 60% stake in the joint venture will be held by Corporacion Venezolana del Petroleo (CVP, which is PdVSA's 100% subsidiary) and a 40% stake by the Russian National Oil Consortium (NNK). (Entrenched in Venezuela, see also Kommersant, Page 1, Years of Solitude Coming for Russia).

By October 1, Gazprom 's debt had increased to a record 1.762 trillion rubles for July to September - an increase by almost 50 billion rubles. Compared to early 2009 the debt had grown by 396 billion rubles, or 29%. The money on the company's bank accounts has shrunk considerably with 288.7 billion rubles available by the end of September (minus 23% for the third quarter alone). As a result, Gazprom's net debt has reached 1.47 trillion rubles, up 4%, compared to early 2009. (Debt Record).

Nearly all major banks with foreign capital have reduced their assets in Russia. Most of them claimed that it was a deliberate policy and that they would build up their businesses this year. Foreign banks' Russian assets in 2009 shrank by an average of 20%, which was due to a drop in business activity on the market. "The drop results from a rigorous credit policy and decreasing financial capabilities of our corporate clients," Bank Societe General Vostok's Director General Pierre-Yves Grimaud said (Fleeing Russia).

Troika Dialog has dropped out of the list of major management companies, according to the National Rating Agency (NRA). By the end of 2009, the assets managed by Troika had shrunk to 79.2 billion rubles and it found itself in fifth place, although it had ranked second after Lider for several years running. Troika's main rival - Renaissance Group, which had 110.1 billion rubles in management by the end of 2008, does not figure i the ranking at all as it refused to provide data, according to the NRA. (Troika without Troika).


Gazprom has received the first revenue from the Sakhalin-2 project, whose operator, Sakhalin Energy, earned over 10 billion rubles, compensating losses sustained in the first half of the year. Gazprom's net profit in the third quarter grew by 33% against the backdrop of EBITDA's decrease by 41%. Instead of the traditional fall in demand in the quarter, Gazprom increased sales to countries outside the Commonwealth of Independent States by 20.5%. Analysts claim further demand will depend on Gazprom's flexible pricing policy. (Page 9, Gazprom Earns on Sakhalin).

Mechel Energy plans to increase the amount of steam coal, used at its electric power plants by 60% by 2015, which will allow the company to almost fully spend the industrial coal product at its thermal power plants. In analysts' estimate, Mechel will have to invest about $800 million in the construction of new capacities for burning 1.5 million tonnes of coal. (Page 12, Mechel will Burn All).

Russian coal companies in February are expected to raise prices for coking coal for the second time since the end of last year. Prices will rise by 30%-40% to reach $120-$130 per tonne. Analysts think it would be a fair price: coking coal has been traded on world markets at a price starting from $180 per tonne against growing production volumes in the metal industry, which is the main consumer. But experts are not sure prices for steel will grow enough to allow the steel industry to shift growth in outlays on its consumers. (Page 11, Coal Industry Heating Market).

Sberbank is the first Russian bank to have joined the annual rating of 500 most significant bank brands, taking 15th place. Britain's HSBC remains leader for a third year in a row. Compilers of the rating note that the overall worth of world bank brands has topped the pre-crisis level by 4%. (Page 10, Bank Brands Overcome Crisis).