By Vladimir Socor
On March 2 at his Novo-Ogarevo residence, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hosted the signing of a novel type of strategic partnership between Russian and West European energy companies, in this case Total of France...
The problem with Red Capitalism, it seems, is its insular nature that lends itself to corruption, whether in Russia or China, MENA or Africa....or EURASIA!
Under the first document, Total will buy 12% of Novatek's shares this year, with an option to increase that to 20% within three years, from Novatek's two principal stakeholders, Mikhelson and Timchenko. The 12% purchase is intended for completion by July, with Total to pay approximately US$4 billion for the shares, according to de Margerie based on current stock-market valuations (likely to rise, however, due to these stated intentions). Apparently, Total and Novatek intend to appoint a representative of each company to the other's board.
According to some press reports, Mikhelson and Timchenko each hold more than 20% of Novatek's shares, aggregating almost 51% between them.
Under the second document, Total will buy a 20% stake in Yamal LNG, the project development company at the South Tambey gas and condensate field on the Yamal peninsula in north-western Siberia.
Apart from extraction, South Tambey features a gas liquefaction project as well as shipping of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other natural gas liquids. Its planned output is 15 million tonnes of liquefied gas per year from 2016 onward. Novatek holds a 71% stake in the Yamal LNG project, to be reduced to an intangible 51% after Total's share purchase. According to Mikhelson, Novatek may seek further minority shareholders for Yamal LNG, but Total is guaranteed to remain the largest foreign shareholder in this project.
Investment requirements in Yamal LNG are valued at $20 billion, apparently as an order-of-magnitude assessment. Total and Novatek are already involved in a joint venture, Terneftegaz, to develop the Termokarst field on the Yamal peninsula since 2009. Little has transpired about that venture to date.
The South Tambey venture has been discussed since 2010 by the same companies. Some observers suggest that the current turmoil in Northern Africa and the Middle East has made Russia seem more reliable and investor-friendly by comparison, precipitating the agreement's signing. De Margerie picked up on this factor: upheavals "in a number of oil and gas producing countries now send a signal to investors to come to Russia because it offers a much safer environment for investment," he was reported as saying by Dow Jones on March 2.
This claim, however, is at variance with the existing situation in Northern Africa and the Middle East. With Libya's sole exception, the oil and gas producing countries have remained stable. The countries in upheaval are not producers or insignificant producers.
According to a parallel argument, this time from the "Western brokerage community" in Moscow, the Total deal shows that major Western companies can only go to Russia if they seek sizeable reserves. This line can sound like a rear-guard defense from the impact of global LNG, which tends to limit Russia's attractiveness to Western investment in the gas sector. Major Western companies may have to go to the Russian Arctic if they face problems with their booked reserves of gas.
For Total, the agreement with Novatek on Yamal LNG is also a consolation prize for the likely loss of the Shtokman project. That Arctic gas project was officially postponed, but in fact almost certainly abandoned in early 2010, due to the less expensive LNG capturing American and increasingly European markets. Total and the Norwegian Statoil were minority partners, with 25% and 24% stakes respectively, to Gazprom's 51% in the project-operating Shtokman Development company.
The Novatek-Total agreements entail some significant novelties:
What is the secret Appendix not disclosed YET....???
.Who is next....???
STATUS OF GEOTHERMAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT IN UGANDA....
I have come across two compelling, but opposed interpretations:
1. Russia was punishing Iran for moving too close to Turkey on energy cooperation. Russia would like to maintain its dominant position in the European energy market and looks askance on any rival southern energy route from Iran to Turkey and then onwards to Europe....
2. Open political warfare has broken out between Putin and Medvedev. The former wishes to continue the policy of national defiance, while the other is convinced that US cooperation is indispensable for the modernization of the Russian economy. You have a growing rivalry between the old Czar (Putin) who enjoys popular support, and the young and ambitious Czarevich (Medvedev) who seeks backing from the scheming boyars (the new oligarchs)....
After what happened last year with the BP oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and how the White House approached this environmental disaster by forcing BP to cough out $20 billion .... I am not surprised to read stories like this one .... and all the speeches in the world are not going to change that. Mind you we are not the only ones who has a government that stumbles on how energy should be delivered .... the British are in a class of their own.