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What the Russian papers say


MOSCOW, July 13 (RIA Novosti) Abkhazia has more reasons for independence than Kosovo - diplomat/Gazprom sets up special purpose vehicle for Shtokman/Russian postal service set to enter Chinese money transfer market/East pipeline could recoup itself by 2028/Who bought Rosneft's 50% stake in Tomskneft?

Izvestia,, Vedomosti

Abkhazia has more reasons for independence than Kosovo - diplomat

The United States, France and Britain have submitted to the UN Security Council one more draft of a resolution on the status of Kosovo stipulating independence for Kosovo but without a deadline, as in the earlier draft.
Russia is not pleased with the new draft, but experts believe there is still hope for success at the negotiations.
"The issue of Kosovo's inevitable independence has not been removed from the agenda," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists. "Diplomatic ornamentation cannot hide the fact that the Ahtisaari plan is designed to be enacted after the talks."
Yelena Guskova, head of the Balkans crisis center at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: "Success is still possible if the talks are designed wisely and without bias. But that calls for extending the format of the talks, changing the leaders (Martti Ahtisaari), and stopping assistance to Albanians. But the main precondition is a desire to solve the problem."
Andrei Dronov, head of the Russian mission in Kosovo, also believes that Russia and the West can find a compromise.
"We believe that it is counterproductive to set deadlines when sovereignty and territorial integrity are at stake, as the Ahtisaari plan [to grant Kosovo independence without the prior consent of Serbia] stipulates," he told the popular daily Izvestia. Now that the deadline has been removed, a compromise is possible."
The Russian official said Kosovo Albanians might unilaterally proclaim independence, but this would be the "the worst variant for everyone, including Kosovo and Serbia."
"First, that would run counter to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which reaffirms the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, and therefore its legal successor, Serbia," Dronov said.
"Second, the EU mission will be out on a limb, because it received its mandate from the UN Security Council. And third, it will create a precedent."
In that case, Transdnestr, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia will demand the same treatment.
"Unlike Kosovo Albanians, those republics have been living as independent entities for a long time and are earning their living without being UN protectorates," Dronov said. "It would be logical to say that they have many more reasons for official independence than Kosovo."

Gazprom sets up special purpose vehicle for Shtokman

Gazprom has sprung a surprise on prospective bidders for the Shtokman gas deposit by setting up a "special purpose vehicle" to bring French company Total in on the act.
The project is so massive that the gas monopoly has been forced to invite foreigners to participate, but for political reasons it must retain control over the field.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said that the SPV (special purpose vehicle) company would be established to organize the design, financing and construction of the Shtokman project.
Later on, the company will be granted ownership of the project's first phase infrastructure (the plan provides for the production of 23.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas and the beginning of pipeline operation in 2013, while LNG deliveries are to start in 2014).
As a first step, Gazprom has decided to cooperate with France's Total (25% stake).
The monopoly's share can be reduced if other foreign companies wish to join in. The CEO, however, said newcomers would not get more than 24%, and the Russian holding would keep a controlling stake in the SPV anyway and remain the owner of the resources and the license holder.
"Gazprom has got exactly what it wanted," said Alexander Razuvayev, head of market analysis at Sobinbank.
"The monopoly will now get access to foreign technologies that it does not have at present and have its investment burden eased - foreign partners will also be investing in the project. Besides, this can make Gazprom more attractive as an investment destination, because the monopoly is prepared to let foreign partners in on Shtokman one way or another," he said.
But, Razuvayev said, Gazprom is not going to share its mineral license with anyone: "Theoretically that is possible, but for it to become a reality, foreign partners will have to offer considerable assets in exchange. And even then, Gazprom will go to great lengths to keep the license for itself."
Analysts believe foreign companies will agree to submit to such "special treatment" because Russian resources are becoming critical for them.
In Razuvayev's opinion, "whatever foreign companies receive for their pains - money or gas - will not matter, because Shtokman gas will be theirs at market prices."


Russian postal service set to enter Chinese money transfer market

Pochta Rossii, Russia's national postal service, said it would soon handle money transfers to China, and that it planned to sign similar agreements with France, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Under an agreement signed between Pochta Rossii and the Chinese postal service in mid-June, all private individuals and legal entities will be able to transfer not more than $1,500 at 5%-8% commission starting this week.
Although the World Bank said migrant workers were the best clients, accounting for 80% of global and Russian money transfers, only 210,000 Chinese nationals, followed by Ukrainians, legally work in Russia.
Suren Airiyan, general director of the UNIStream money transfer system, said China was increasingly popular with market players because of its dynamic trade and economic growth, expanding tourist industry and increased migration.
Garegin Tosunyan, President of the Association of Russian Banks, said Russian-Chinese money transfers tended to double each year.
Experts said banks in the Russian Far East were unable to handle all money transfers to China.
Yelena Matrosova, director of the Center for Macro-Economic Research BDO-Unikon, said Chinese nationals were unlikely to use official money transfer methods, and Pochta Rossii would have to invest heavily in advertising.
The Central Bank said the national postal service handled over $6 billion in foreign money transfers last year.
China placed ninth, with $278 million transferred by private individuals, accounting for 4.6% of the grand total. And $71 million were transferred from Russia to China in January-March 2007.
The Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department recently estimated the unofficial Chinese market for financial transactions at $200 billion.


East pipeline could recoup itself by 2028

The first 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) stretch of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline has been laid. Officials now hope that its first stage, which cost $11 billion, will pay for itself by 2028.
Experts, however, have calculated that with such a repayment period, pumping through it would be several times costlier than through the present pipeline system.
Despite President Vladimir Putin's instruction to alter the route, making the line 400 kilometers (250 miles) longer, the construction timeframe has not changed, Semyon Vainshtok, Transneft president, said Thursday at the 1,000th kilometer welding ceremony.
The economic benefits of the pipeline are still unclear. No tariffs have been calculated for transportation through the first stage yet.
Deputy Industry and Energy Minister Andrei Dementyev said that according to preliminary estimates the project would recoup its cost in 18 to 20 years.
With a budget of $11 billion and such a recouping period, it will cost $75 to pump one metric ton of oil in 2009, Maxim Shein, head of analysis at BrokerCreditService, said.
The current costs are much lower. In 2006, Transneft was paid an average of $14 per metric ton, Shein added. Earlier, before the pipeline route was altered, the planned fee was $38 per metric ton. But the construction cost of the first stage was estimated at $6.6 billion at that time.
Transneft is not worried where to get oil for the pipeline, Vainshtok said.
In 2009, 25 million metric tons will come from Rosneft's Vankorsky deposit, more than 2 million metric tons will be contributed by the Talakanskoye deposit run by Surgutneftegaz, 700,000 to 800,000 metric tons will be made available by Urals Energy's Dulisminskoye field, and the rest will arrive from Verkhnechonskneftegaz, majority-owned by Rosneft and TNK-BP.
These are the volumes the companies quoted, Vainshtok said. Half the oil will be delivered to the Primorye terminal at Kozmino, and the other half will flow to China, along a branch line to be finished by 2009, too, he said.
But as the main supplier, Rosneft had other plans as early as the beginning of the year.
In May, the state-owned company officially promised that it guaranteed the pipeline would be filled only by 30% in 2009, rather than by the 83% promised by Vainshtok. A Rosneft spokesman declined to comment Thursday.

Business & Financial Markets

Who bought Rosneft's 50% stake in Tomskneft?

The deal to sell a 50% stake in Tomskneft, the largest subsidiary of bankrupt oil company Yukos, reads like a detective story.
Vladimir Dmitriyev, the head of the Russian Development Bank (Vnesheconombank) denied yesterday that VEB had bought the stake from Rosneft. But the state-controlled oil company said it had sold it to the Development Bank.
According to experts, the transaction was probably made through a special purpose vehicle (SPV), which may mean that the stake in Tomskneft went to a strategic investor.
"The transaction was not registered on VEB's balance sheet, which means we are not considering this deal, and the bank's funds are not involved," Dmitriyev said Thursday. However, he did not deny that the bank had contributed to designing a scheme for the deal.
There is a logical explanation to this strange situation. Rosneft, as a company with a stock exchange listing, cannot deny that it has closed a deal of substantial importance to its investors. But VEB cannot admit participating in the transaction, as its involvement was unofficial.
"Vnesheconombank probably used an SPV that is not formally affiliated to it," said a manager from a major Russian bank, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"Under a widely-used scheme, a company unwilling to show its assets on the balance sheet sets up a special purpose vehicle to which the 'secret' asset is transferred.
"We may later find Tomskneft on the balance sheet of an organization similar to Baikal Finance Group, which bought Yuganskneftegaz on behalf of Rosneft. VEB could transfer the money for Tomskneft to Rosneft through an SPV."
If such a scheme was used, the 50% stake in Transneft could be sold to some other investor, as VEB clearly has no need for it.
Analysts say the list of potential buyers includes foreign oil and gas companies that cooperate with Rosneft, as well as Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of energy giant Gazprom, which has refused to confirm or deny buying Tomskneft.
Rosneft could use a similar complex transaction to regain the stake. It is not in the company's interests to sell half of Tomskneft, and it carried out such an operation only in order to obtain funds to buy other Yukos assets without increasing its debt burden.

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