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The Business Online:

Gazprom is now world’s third largest company

By Richard Orange
30 April 2006

RUSSIAN gas giant Gazprom has usurped Microsoft’s position as the world’s third most valuable company. Last week, title holder Microsoft’s shares suffered their biggest drop in six years, as Gazprom surged.

Microsoft shares on Friday fell 11% on the Nasdaq to $24, valuing the software giant at $246bn (E194.7bn, £134.7bn), meaning Gazprom’s $269bn market capitalisation gives it a clear lead into third place.

Only oil group Exxon Mobil, with a market capitalisation of $381bn and General Electric, with a market capitalisation of $358bn, now stand in the way of Russian government’s goal to turn the massive gas monopoly into the world’s most valuable company based on market capitalisation.

Microsoft shares fell after chief executive Steve Ballmer announced plans to step up investment in its struggling internet business to compete with Google, with $2bn more being channelled in than analysts had expected.

Gazprom shares have nearly quadrupled in the last year after the Russia government lifted restrictions on foreign ownership and investors began to recognise the almost limitless value of its enormous gas reserves.

Gazprom overtook BP’s market capitalisation last Tuesday after the MSCI emerging markets index, which most emerging markets tracker funds use to balance their portfolios, announced that it would increase Gazprom’s weighting in the index.

MSCI will increase Gazprom’s weighting from 5.85% to 29.15% at the end of May and 45.14% in August, to reflect the fact that 49% of the shares are now open to investment.

Morgan Stanley last month upped its price target on Gazprom to $140 a share, which would value the company at more than $330bn.

Analyst Matthew Thomas wrote: “Gazprom’s market capitalisation is a prestige badge for the Russian state. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the current government wants to have the world’s leading energy company by market capitalisation.”

Gazprom deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev last week said he aimed to bring the company’s market value to $1trillion by 2010-2015.


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