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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Rosneft IPO Seen Near Range’s Top

A WALL STREET JOURNAL NEWS ROUNDUP
July 13, 2006

Russian state oil company OAO Rosneft is expected to price its initial public offering of stock near the top of its planned price range, thanks to strong demand from international oil companies and Russian investors, according to people close to the deal.

The Kremlin’s grip on the energy sector has fueled demand for Rosneft shares among international oil companies looking to win points with the Russian government. These buyers have indicated interest in buying about $5 billion to $6 billion of the offering, whose overall size could total as much as $11.6 billion, those people said.

Shares are expected to be priced at the upper end of the new price range of between $7.15 and $7.85 each, narrower than the original range of $5.85 to $7.85, those people said. The price is to be announced tomorrow, with trading starting next week.

Because of strong demand for the shares, foreign oil companies that have sought shares may not get as much as they ordered, a person familiar with the matter said.

BP PLC, China National Petroleum Corp. and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. placed preliminary orders, the person said. Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which had been talking to Rosneft about an investment of around $1 billion, may not end up on the order books, these people said.

In addition, India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. said yesterday that it is likely to seek shares.

“This is still to be decided with the company [today],” when bankers meet with top Rosneft officials to discuss the final price, the person said. Order-taking for the offering, likely to be one of the world’s largest this year, ended yesterday.

These people, who include fund managers and others linked to the listing, say disappointing demand from international institutional investors has forced Rosneft to lean on a variety of Russian investors to secure the flotation’s success.

International institutions had shown weak interest in the offering, fund managers observing the situation said. Many were said to be bothered by what they considered to be an exorbitant valuation, corporate governance concerns, and potential legal actions against the company stemming from its purchase of its biggest unit, Yuganskneftegaz. Yugansk was acquired after it was forcibly stripped out of Russian oil company OAO Yukos, which faced back-tax claims from the government.

Niall Paul, head of emerging markets at Morley Fund Management, a U.K. fund manager, said he is bullish on Russian energy stocks given the substantial, and increasing, commercial links with oil and gas buyers in Europe. But a Morley spokesman said the firm wouldn’t participate in the Rosneft deal.

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