Gazprom Looks To Fuel Growth

As recently reported in The Financial Times, Gazprom – Russia’s state-controlled gas group – is “very comfortable” with commodity prices at present levels and is pressing ahead with its plans to increase capital spending next year, according to its deputy chief executive.  As the article notes:

Today it is down to 35th place, worth less than $100bn, hit by the double blow of the plunging price of oil, which sets the price of the gas that Gazprom sells in the European Union, and the drying up of funding for many companies, especially for those in emerging markets.

Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom’s deputy chief executive, says, however, that the company could cope with both lower oil and gas prices and the difficulty of raising finance.

At a time when many oil and gas groups are making cuts to their capital spending plans, Gazprom’s management committee last week approved an investment budget of about Rbs920bn ($33bn) for 2009, an increase of about 10 per cent on this year.

Mr Medvedev says the company has “prioritised” its investment programme, but has no need to cut its budget because of the fall in commodity prices, saying: “We never planned on the basis of $150 oil.”

For a while Gazprom will be insulated from the worst of the fall in the oil price, which sets the European gas price with a six- to nine-month lag.

Gas is set to average about $400 per thousand cubic metres in the first half of next year, down from a peak of over $500 in the final quarter of 2008.

Although gas prices would then fall to $250-$300, Mr Medvedev adds, Gazprom would be helped by lower costs.

“One positive side of the crisis is that the cost of materials and equipment will inevitably become cheaper,” he says. “The cost of supplies was incredibly high, and it was the suppliers who were benefiting.”

He also argues that the decline in prices was unlikely to last.

“If you see the latest report from the International Energy Agency, it is quite clear that $100 oil will come back quite quickly. It is a question of when, not if,” he says.

“The era of cheap energy is obviously over.”

That expectation underpins Gazprom’s confidence that it will be able to meet the huge need for investment to open new fields to replace lost production from declining, ageing fields, and to reinforce Russia’s gas infrastructure.

Mr Medvedev also insists that the state-controlled company is sticking to its ambitious plans outside Russia, including the Nord Stream and South Stream pipelines to carry gas direct from Russia to the EU, bypassing transit countries such as Ukraine.

He points out that the Blue Stream pipeline from Russia to Turkey was built during Russia’s previous financial crisis, in 1997-99.

Another expensive and high-profile project, the vast Shtokman development off Russia’s north coast, being developed with Total of France and StatoilHydro of Norway, will not be put up for an investment decision until 2010.

Mr Medvedev, however, indicates that Gazprom is negotiating hard over Kovykta, the large gas field in eastern Siberia in which Gazprom has agreed to buy a controlling stake from TNK-BP, BP’s 50 per cent-owned Russian joint venture.

“We are in discussions with TNK-BP on a regular basis, but it is quite clear that the new market situation has forced us to look into this deal with open eyes,” he says.

For its planned Rbs100bn investment in Russia’s electricity industry, Gazprom would seek state support, Mr Medvedev says, but for the rest, it could cope from its own resources.

“Even when the market was fine, the share of new borrowing in our cash flow did not exceed 10 per cent. We could manage our investment programme without borrowing at all,” he says.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 9:47 am and is filed under Gazprom, Russia.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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