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Russia - Gazprom.

The largest group in Russia and the biggest gas company in the world, Gazprom was founded in 1989 by Viktor Chernomyrdin as he was minister of fuel and energy. He became its CEO. In 1992 he was made PM and he remained involved in key Gazprom decisions, with its CEO then being his friend Rem Vyakhirev. Chernomyrdin lost the premiership in 1998, and in 1999 became chairman of Gazprom. On June 30, 2000, however, President Putin got Dmitri Medvedev to be elected as Gazprom chairman replacing Chernomyrdin, who was later given a diplomatic position.

Medvedev, a close Putin aide now aged 46 and being the PM since May 2012 after having been president since 2008, was until 2000 a first deputy head of the Kremlin administration. He later became a first deputy PM. He was hand-picked by Putin as a candidate to the Russian Presidency, which he won in the early March 2008 elections. As head of Gazprom until March 2008, Medvedev was one of several directors who had radically tilted the balance on the board of politically powerful Gazprom away from its in-house executives, at a time of big struggle for corporate power under Putin. In May 2001 Putin made another ally, deputy energy minister Alexei Miller, Gazprom CEO who replaced Vyakhirev.

On May 21, 2002, Gazprom reached an end of an era with Vyakhirev's decision to stand down from its board. Vyakhirev, then aged 68, told his fellow directors that after 46 years of working for the petroleum sector he was tired and no longer wanted to stand for re-election at the annual general meeting on June 28 of that year. His move concluded a year during which his management team was broken up, while his presence at Gazprom proved a periodic source of irritation to the new executives.

That culminated Kremlin efforts to reassert its control over a company which used to say "What's good for Gazprom is good for Russia", a firm which holds about 25% of the world's conventional gas reserves. In line with Russian tradition, then President Putin had decorated Vyakhirev in 2001 and offered him the face-saving option of becoming honourary president, with an office at Gazprom's HQ. But it was clear that the gesture was temporary. The state's equity in Gazprom was increased to 50+1% in 2005. Gazprom in October 2005 bought Sibneft of $13bn and in 2006 created GazpromNeft (see down8RusFirmsAug20-12).

Gazprom is an evolution of the Soviet gas ministry, grouping many gas producing associations together with the world's biggest network of pipelines and gas marketing units. The ministry was abolished in 1989. Now Gazprom is a huge, diversified group, with equities in other businesses ranging from banks to TV networks and publications.

With impressive HQ in a modern complex in Moscow, Gazprom employs more than 400,000 people. The group includes over 95 subsidiaries. It produces the bulk of Russia's gas, has over 140,800 km of pipelines, and exports more than 25% of West Europe's gas needs. It has the world's biggest gas storage facilities in aquifers and depleted reservoirs.

The US in 2009 over-took Russia as the world's largest gas producer with the American output of natural gas then having risen 3.5% to 593 BCM, while Russia's fell 12% to 528 BCM. This is according to BP's 2010 Statistical Review of World Energy published in June that year. BP's chief economist Christof Ruhl then noted that unconventional shale gas resources, previously unrecoverable because of high costs, had been brought to market through what he described as a "silent revolution" with horizontal drilling and hydro-fracturing technologies boosting US gas reserves by 50% over the past 12 years.

According to BP, the US in 2011 boosted its reserves to 8.5 TCM from 8.2 TCM, while its gas production rose 7.7% to 651.3 BCM. Russian production rose 3.1% to 607 BCM.

According to the annual list of the world's biggest companies by sales as ranked by Fortune magazine, Gazprom is the most profitable company in the world, taking in $44.4bn in profits in 2011. Last year Gazprom ranked second in terms of profits, with a respectable $31.8bn to its name, and the most profitable company was Swiss consumer-goods giant Nestle, which this year has fallen to 38 on the list. All in all, 2011 seems to have been a great year for energy companies. Six of the 10 most profitable firms on the most recent Fortune list are in the energy sector - Gazprom, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BHP Billiton and BP.

With its $12.6bn leap in profits over the previous year, Gazprom seems to be coping well with the inefficiency and corruption once rumoured to be holding the company back. In diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, John Beyrle, the US ambassador to Moscow, reportedly characterised Gazprom as unprepared to compete in the global market.

Because of a global recession and decline in European demand, Gazprom in 2009 had to cut its production 16% to 461.5 BCM. As a result, Gazprom reported in May 2010 that its 2009 profit fell to $25bn on revenues of $93.8bn. The revenues were down 34% from the 2008 level. Gas sales income fell 13%, to $36.5bn for Europe, $16.6bn for the domestic market and $10.2bn for the ex-Soviet republics. However, rising demand at end-2009 pushed fourth-quarter profit to $10.5bn - up more than six-fold from a year earlier as in December 2008 paper WTI at one time collapsed to $32/b.

In late 2011, Gazprom said it was to boost gas output in 2012 and the subsequent years and to push ahead with plans to develop giant fields to supply Asian markets. Output was to rise in 2014 to 570 BCM in 2014 as it was to ramp up the Bovanenkovo field, to a capacity of 140 BCM.

Gazprom in 2012 raised its annual spending to $29bn, up by 2.3bn from its 2011 capex plan. The decision followed better than expected results in the first quarter of 2012. Originally, Gazprom's board on Dec. 20, 2011, had approved a $24.3bn investment budget for 2012, with capex then set to amount to $22.2bn. Of that capex, the company had earmarked 33% for production and 52% for transportation.

The Yamal project, which includes completing the development of Bovanenkovo and having a pipeline built from this field to Gazprom's network at Ukhta, is the biggest cost item. By October 2012, this project will have soaked up $6.9bn.

The capex plans were$14.9bn down on 2011's and $17.8bn lower on the original target. But Gazprom tends to revise capex figures in September, when output and export plans are clearer. The company raised the 2011 investment by $15bn in September.

This year's lower capex reflects that fact that Gazprom is scaling back investment in upgrading pipelines feeding the Nord Stream export trunkline to Germany and the northern European markets, which is not likely to reach its full 55 BCM/year capacity before 2014/15.

The budget assumes a 2012 gas export price of $440/000 CM and exports of 164 BCM to the EU, excluding the Baltic markets and Turkey. The 2011 capex of $37.1bn assumed an export price of less than $400/000 CM and total exports to those destinations amounting to 151 BCM.

The capex for 2013 was set at $54.7bn. For 2014, the capex was set at $48.1bn.

Gazprom in late 2011 planned to pay $6.2bn in dividends, subject to approval by the shareholders in June. This was more than double 2011's $2.8bn. The state was expected to need all the money it could find in 2012, given the usual rise in spending during the presidential elections last March.
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Aug 20, 2012
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