THE man regarded as President Vladimir Putin's most mighty lieutenant may now be just three months away from cobbling together the world's biggest publicly-traded oil company for the Russian state.
The last piece of the puzzle for Igor Sechin (pictured) Rosneft chief and long-time surveyor of Russia's globe-topping energy sector would be clinching a deal to acquire British group BP's troubled half of its TNK-BP venture in Siberia.
But some see the rapid rise of Rosneft as part of a mad scramble in Russia by both the state and private players to pool resources as they seek to replace dwindling Soviet-era field output with the promise of untapped Arctic oil.
This consolidation "is based on the need to substitute inexpensive onshore oil and gas sites with far more expensive ones located offshore and in other remote locations," said Renaissance Capital analyst Ildar Davletshin.
The unquestioned leader and instigator of this drive is Sechin a quiet man with a past in Portuguese-speaking Africa that some link to Soviet military intelligence.
His precise biography details have never been publicly confirmed.
"If he takes something on, you can be sure that the job gets done," Putin said of his fellow Saint Petersburg native in March. "This is very important for the executive."
Rosneft's unlikely emergence began a decade ago when it first hoovered up the prized pieces of Yukos a private firm that was the country's largest.
Rosneft now has some of the world's largest proven reserves but is still suffering from lagging production. One recent state study said output may actually start falling across Russia by 2025 unless action is taken fast.
The firm's response has been rapid and transformational for Sechin's image abroad. Three huge Arctic deals with world majors in the past year have seen Putin's favourite turn into the pointman for oil executives in the West.
Yet Rosneft's prospects of becoming established as a bigger producer than ExxonMobil depend largely on what happens should it forge an alliance with the same tycoons who had served as BP's acrimonious partners since 2003.
The Alfa Access Renova (AAR) billionaires were being treated with open disdain by some Rosneft insiders during a 2011 meeting that came just days after the group managed to block Rosneft's initial Arctic tie-up with BP a deal masterminded by Sechin.
Yet no deal seems certain while some question the wisdom of Rosneft its debt at US$25 billion and no big cash project on hand besides the backup it gets from the state going after a BP stake estimated at around US$30 billion.
Not all analysts agree because of future share swap possibilities with BP. And they point to Sechin's original mission of creating a global oil leader for the Kremlin as a good barometer of things to come. A buy-out of BP "would realise Sechin's dream of (growing) Rosneft in Russia and eventually turning the company into a major international player," said Maria Yegikyan of Alfa Bank.AFP
Monday, July 30, 2012
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