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Shell courts Russia with asset swap plan

Shell courts Russia with asset swap plan

By Richard Tyler

Last Updated: 10:20pm BST 03/08/2008



Shell is considering a £1bn asset swap with a joint venture partner in Russia to ensure that it remains in the Kremlin’s good books.

The oil major has held initial talks about the asset swap with London-listed Sibir Energy, its equal partner in the Salym oilfields venture in western Siberia, which is expected to produce 45m barrels of oil this year. The deal could entail Shell handing over its stake in return for a holding in Sibir.

Shell declined to comment, but a spokesman said the company had “learned our lesson in Russia” after the forced sale of half its stake in the $22bn Sakhalin-II oil and liquefied natural gas field, off Russia’s east coast, in 2006 to state-owned Gazprom.

The move comes as Shell’s rival BP remains embroiled in difficulties in Russia over its joint venture, TNK-BP. Despite the Kremlin’s influence over the exploitation of Russia’s resources, Jeroen van der Veer, Shell’s chief executive, has said he is keen to expand its presence in the country.

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  • Speaking before the St Petersburg Economic Forum in June, Mr van der Veer said: “Shell is ready to work in partnership with Russian companies in forms of co-operation acceptable to the Russian government.”

    The plans included “exploring growth opportunities” with Gazprom and “strengthening” its position in west Siberia where the Salym fields are, he said. Last year, Shell signed a strategic co-operation agreement with Rosneft and more recently has partnered Tatneft for heavy oil development in Tatarstan.

    Gazprom is now the main shareholder in the Sakhalin-II joint venture, which is tapping oil and gas deposits off the Sakhalin Island chain. Shell is currently involved in the construction of liquefied natural gas plants, which the company said it hoped would be ready “next year”.

    In December 2006, Shell and its Japanese partners accepted a £3.8bn ($7.45bn) cash payment for a stake of 50pc plus one share in the project, which until then had been the biggest single foreign investment in Russia.

    Sibir, which runs oilfields in Siberia, a refinery in Moscow and a petrol station chain, is listed on the alternative investment market and is valued at £2.4bn.

    About 67pc of its shares are in Russian hands, including 18pc held by the City of Moscow and 47pc by businessmen in the country.

    Meanwhile, Shell and BP have both approached Origen Energy about exploiting the Australian energy firm’s gas assets, The Sunday Telegraph reported. It follows BG Group’s £6.5bn hostile bid for Origen, one of the biggest energy retailers in Australia and New Zealand. BG is due to update investors on its bid plans today.

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