Gazprom's capitalization tops $100 billion

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MOSCOW, September 6 (RIA Novosti) - A company with a market value of over $100 billion has emerged in Russia for the first time. But in a few years' time, Gazprom, Russia's natural gas monopoly, will be worth more than double that figure, Vedomosti, a respected business daily, said Tuesday.

"This is a huge capitalization, and not only by Russian standards," said Alex Kantarovich, an analyst with Aton Capital, a Russian brokerage. "Anything worth more than $10 billion is considered big business all over the world, and Gazprom is worth ten times that," Kantarovich said.

Sergei Suverov, head of market analysis at Gazprombank, a subsidiary of the monopoly, said this symbolic figure made Gazprom a heavyweight.

Investors are happy the concern plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange within two to three years after liberalizing its shares, said Maxim Shein, head of analysis at Brokerkreditservis, a Moscow-based financial company. They are also pleased with the news that Russia has started supplying liquefied natural gas to the United States.

Vedomosti produced the capitalization of other natural gas and oil giants for the sake of comparison: China National Petroleum Corporation came in at $143.8 billion, France's Total at $161.3 billion; and Britain's BP at $246.3 billion. The Russian monopoly wants to compete with these companies in the next five years. Last week, chief executive Alexei Miller said that in five years the concern's capitalization could rise to 200 billion euros at the current exchange rates, and even more if given favorable conditions.

These plans do not seem extraordinary to experts. "With such prices for the resources, the coming liberalization [of the equity market] and a normal listing, Gazprom's share potential is enormous," Kantarovich said. "And if, moreover, the company becomes shareholder-friendly, its capitalization may soar several-fold."

Nearly every Russian company has been rapidly appreciating recently. Their capitalization, as estimated by the UralSib financial group, has reached $370 billion against $240 billion earlier in the year. With Gazprom factored out, public companies in Russia have grown by over $90 billion in value in the first eight months of this year.

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