UAE sovereign wealth fund Mubadala pays $271m for stake in Gazprom oil subsidiary

Gazprom’s oil subsidiary’s combined production declined by 3 percent to 1.64 million tons in 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 May 2018
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UAE sovereign wealth fund Mubadala pays $271m for stake in Gazprom oil subsidiary

  • Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Investment Company (MIC) has agreed to pay $271 million for a 44 percent stake
  • Move underpins a strengthening alliance between Moscow and Opec’s Middle East countries

LONDON: Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Mubadala Investment Company (MIC) has agreed to pay $271 million for a 44 percent stake in an oil subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom. 

The move underpins a strengthening alliance between Moscow and Opec’s Middle East countries, which joined forces to agree a supply-cut deal 18 months ago to stabilize the oil market after the price crashed in late 2014.

“This cements the link between GCC countries and Russia,” Giorgos Beleris, a Dubai-based oil analyst for Thomson Reuters, told Arab News.

Richard Mallinson, co-founder of London research consultancy Energy Aspects and a research associate with the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, told Arab News that the GCC, and particularly the Saudis, had been talking “about aligning their goals in discussions about whether to extend a cap on crude production beyond 2018.” 

“They are after long-term cooperation, not just a short deal,” Mallinson said.

Shakil Begg, head of oil research for Thomson Reuters in London, said that joint ventures between Russian and Middle Eastern energy companies had become more common.

He added that Russia was still affected by certain sanctions, “so for them, it’s about getting access to technology and expertise.”

“Additional Gazprom production that could come on line is in difficult areas, such as the Arctic,” he said.

A joint statement about the deal from the UAE and Gazprom underlined Begg’s point. 

“For the first time, one of the largest investment funds in the UAE has invested in the Russian assets of Gazprom Neft, based in Western Siberia. The task of beginning cost-effective development of Paleozoic stocks can be more effectively solved within the framework of partnership, combining technological and financial resources,” the statement said.

Importantly, the two companies can make use of each other’s customer base in the Far East where demand, especially from China and India, has been strong.

MP said on its website: “(Our) major projects include exploration, development and production activities in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where we operate the majority of our assets.

“Southeast Asia continues to be the core region of our operated activities where we have developed an excellent track record of safe and efficient operations,” it added.

In 2017, MP’s average working interest production was about 320,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent.

Begg said: “It appears like this deal is strategic to obtaining a greater share of the light crude market in the Far East.

“The deal involves crude production from several fields operated by Gazprom Neft which feed the ESPO pipeline that supply a number of Chinese refineries and a few in Japan. Given the quality of Russian ESPO is similar to the main crude onshore crudes produced by the UAE (also sold to consumers in the Far East), it is possible that Mubadala are trying to retain/increase its market share in Asia.”

The growing Russian/GCC alliance was underlined recently when Russian energy minister Alexander Novak said a joint organization for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC countries may be set up once the current deal on oil output curbs expires at the end of this year.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Reuters in March that Saudi Arabia and Russia were working on a historic long-term pact, possibly 10 to 20 years long, that could extend controls over world crude supplies by major exporters.

Announced at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, the Russia/UAE agreement is between Gazprom, the Russian Direct Investment Fund RDIF) and MIC offshoot, Mubadala Petroleum (MP).

A statement by RDIF, the sovereign wealth fund of Russia, and MP said that it was creating a joint venture with Gazprom Neft to develop several oil fields in the Tomsk and Omsk regions.

RDIF and Mubadala Petroleum will acquire a 49 percent equity stake in Gazpromneft-Vostok, the operator of the fields. Mubadala Petroleum will hold 44 percent and RDIF 5 percent.

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said: “(This deal) brings the experience and expertise of our Middle East partners to the Russian oil and gas sector. (We) see this as the first step in creating a consortium to pursue further significant investments in the sector.”

Dr. Bakheet Al Katheeri, CEO of Mubadala Petroleum, said: “Through this new partnership, we will not only share but also further build on our expertise and capabilities in oil and gas while adding significant oil production to our existing oil and gas portfolio.”

Gazpromneft-Vostok controls seven subsoil licenses in Tomsk and the neighboring Omsk region; these contain both mature and undeveloped oilfields. Its proven and probable reserves stand at 296 million boe (barrels of oil equivalent), of which more than 80 percent is crude oil. According to the Russian energy ministry, the company produced 1.64 million tons (33,000 bpd) of oil in 2017, down 3 percent year on year.

Gazprom is looking to divest stakes in non-core assets to pay for its capital-intensive projects in the Arctic, namely the East-Messoyakhinskoye, Novoportovskoye and Prirazlomnoye oilfields, according to a report by Edinburgh-based website NewsBase.com.

In February, the company reportedly sold the West-Noyabrskoye field in Yamalo-Nenets to an unnamed buyer, and it is also looking to unload stakes in the Neptune oilfield off the coast of Sakhalin and the Chonsky project in Eastern Siberia. Gazprom Neft reported free cash flow of 65 billion rubles ($1.15 billion) at the end of 2017, versus a negative value a year earlier, NewsBase said.


Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

Updated 24 May 2019
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Foreign investors hope India dials back policy shocks after Modi win

  • Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors
  • After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers said they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies

NEW DELHI: Foreign companies in India have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory for the political stability it brings, but now they need to see him soften a protectionist stance adopted in the past year.
Modi’s pro-business image and India’s youthful population have lured foreign investors, with US firms such as Amazon.com , Walmart and Mastercard committing billions of dollars in investments and ramping up hiring.
India is also the biggest market by users for firms such as Facebook Inc, and its subsidiary, WhatsApp.
But from around 2017, critics say, the Hindu nationalist leader took a harder, protectionist line on sectors such as e-commerce and technology, crafting some policies that appeared to aim at whipping up patriotic fervor ahead of elections.

Opinion

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“I hope he’s now back to wooing businesses,” said Prasanto Roy, a technology policy analyst based in New Delhi, who advises global tech firms.
“Global firms remain deeply concerned about the lack of policy stability or predictability, this has sent a worrying message to global investors.”
India stuck to its policies despite protests and aggressive lobbying by the United States government, US-India trade bodies and companies themselves.
Small hurdles
Modi was set to hold talks on Friday to form a new cabinet after election panel data showed his Bharatiya Janata Party had won 302 of the 542 seats at stake and was leading in one more, up from the 282 it won in 2014.
After Modi’s win, about a dozen officials of foreign companies in India and their advisers told Reuters they hoped he would ease his stance and dilute some of the policies.
Other investors hope the government will avoid sudden policy changes on investment and regulation that catch them off guard and prove very costly, urging instead industry-wide consultation that permits time to prepare.
Protectionism concerns “are small hurdles you have to go through,” however, said Prem Watsa, the chairman of Canadian diversified investment firm Fairfax Financial, which has investments of $5 billion in India.
“There will be more business-friendly policies and more private enterprise coming into India,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Tech, healthcare and beyond
Among the firms looking for more friendly steps are global payments companies that had benefited since 2016 from Modi’s push for electronic payments instead of cash.
Last year, however, firms such as Mastercard and Visa were asked to store more of their data in India, to allow “unfettered supervisory access,” a change that prompted WhatsApp to delay plans for a payments service.
Modi’s government has also drafted a law to clamp similar stringent data norms on the entire sector.
But abrupt changes to rules on foreign investment in e-commerce stoked alarm at firms such as Amazon, which saw India operations disrupted briefly in February, and Walmart, just months after it invested $16 billion in India’s Flipkart.
Policy changes also hurt foreign players in the $5-billion medical device industry, such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson, following 2017 price caps on products such as heart stents and knee implants.
Modi’s government said the move aimed to help poor patients and curb profiteering, but the US government and lobby groups said it harmed innovation, profits and investment plans.
“If foreign companies see their future in this country on a long-term basis...they will have to look at the interests of the people,” Ashwani MaHajjan, an official of a nationalist group that pushed for some of the measures, told Reuters.
That view was echoed this week by two policymakers who said government policies will focus on strengthening India’s own companies, while providing foreign players with adequate opportunities for growth.
Such comments worry foreign executives who fear Modi is not about to change his protectionist stance in a hurry, with one offical of a US tech firm saying, “I’d rather be more worried than be optimistic.”