MOSCOW, June 23 (RIA Novosti)
Resignation by Yabloko leader may help democrats unite/ Majority party rid of political diversity/ LUKoil, CNPC fail to agree terms/ Gazprom Neft expands cooperation with Iran/ Russia's largest search engine opens office in Silicon Valley/ Dutch manager solves the riddle of the mysterious Russian soul
Gazeta.ru, Kommersant, Vremya Novostei
Resignation by Yabloko leader may help democrats unite
Grigory Yavlinsky, who has led the opposition Yabloko party for 15 years, has resigned and proposed Sergei Mitrokhin as his successor.
The news has cut the ground from under the feet of the party's radical wing, which had accused Yavlinsky of autocracy. As a result, the wing's leaders have been left without top posts and have almost lost their membership cards.
Analysts say Yavlinsky's resignation has given him the opportunity to take a government post he has allegedly been offered, and that the renewed party may become the core for unifying all democratic parties.
The rumor that Yavlinsky was offered a post in government first appeared last spring, after his meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.
The Yabloko leader said he had resigned because he was viewed as the main obstacle to the unification of Russia's democrats, who pledged never to be subordinate to Yavlinsky.
Nikita Belykh, head of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), another opposition party, said Yavlinsky's resignation was a strong move and promised to cooperate with the new Yabloko leader.
Boris Nadezhdin, secretary of the presidium of the SPS Political Council, said the chances of Yabloko joining the unification of right-wing opposition parties had increased.
There are different views of Yabloko's new leader, Sergei Mitrokhin, in the party and among its potential partners.
Vyacheslav Igrunov, former leader of Yabloko who brought Mitrokhin to the party in 1993, said: "He is a tough, uncompromising man."
When the SPS attempted to negotiate a union with Yabloko before the 2007 parliamentary elections, they specifically asked the party not to send Mitrokhin to the talks.
Mitrokhin will have fewer powers in the party than Yavlinsky had, while the political committee, which has been set up in the party, will have considerable opportunities to formulate the party's policy and control its leader.
Apart from Yavlinsky, it includes Sergei Ivanenko, former first deputy chairman of Yabloko, Igor Artemyev, head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service, and environmentalist Alexei Yablokov.
Although party members cannot say how influential the new committee will be, Yavlinsky will clearly use it to keep control of the part.
Majority party rid of political diversity
A proposal to reintroduce direct election for the appointment of regional governors, put forth by the president of Tatarstan, has become the highlight of the week. None of the regional heads have indicated they are unhappy with the unfair new system since direct elections were cancelled in 2004 and governors became de facto subordinated to the Russian president.
The statement was all the more shocking as it came from the president of the Volga republic and one of the founders and leaders of United Russia.
The political elite are visibly flummoxed. Party members are uneasy openly disputing their superiors' decisions, while Vladimir Putin, the party leader, has made no comment so far. President Dmitry Medvedev's reaction is totally impossible to predict, although he has positioned himself as a liberal leader. What if the Tatarstan leader has learned some intelligence about the Kremlin's immediate plans, something yet unknown even to [chairman of United Russia's supreme council] Boris Gryzlov and Vyacheslav Volodin [the council secretary]?
Daunted and confused by the lack of clarity, United Russia has received two more internal shocks. Vladimir Pligin, head of one of the lower house core committees, the constitutional committee, supported [Mintimer] Shaimiyev's initiative, and has expanded on it by citing a specific timeframe, 2012. Another longstanding regional head and party member, Bashkirian President Murtaza Rakhimov, also supported the reinstitution of the old model.
At this point, the Kremlin information controllers must have regained control and launched a counteroffensive. Other governors, lined up by ascending political weight, from Vyacheslav Pozgalev (Vologda in northern Russia) to Valentina Matviyenko (St. Petersburg), are condemning the Volga "revolt" through loyal mass media. Party bosses seconded in chorus which was crowned by Gryzlov's solo performance about an "executive power unity strengthening the Russian state and such" on Friday.
Then, as if that was not enough, Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin appeared on TV a week after Shaimiyev's statement: "Speaking of legal advisability, I would have more consideration for Russian citizens," meaning the voters would become utterly confused if they were given a choice again.
It is unlikely that Shaimiyev expected repercussions on this scale. He spoke as a politician concerned about rumors that Moscow was planning to replace him.
However, the unexpected differences in opinion on such an important issue have shown that the party in power is less united today on what the official line is than it wants to show.
LUKoil, CNPC fail to agree terms
Russia's largest private oil producer LUKoil and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) have failed to agree terms. CNPC could not offer assets of any interest to the Russian company in exchange for which LUKoil was going to abandon its pre-emptive right to buy out a 50% stake in Kazakhstan's Turgai Petroleum. CNPC is its second shareholder, but now LUKoil wants to own 100% of the Kazakh company which is assessed at $1.7 billion. Meanwhile, the Kazakh authorities may also decide to claim half of Turgai Petroleum.
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov explained to Kommersant that CNPC was ready to hand over a stake in one of its assets in Sudan or some other regions to the Russian company, but these "assets are either ineffective or connected with political risks."
LUKoil head thinks that the buyout issue should be decided within a year.
Turgai Petroleum is developing the Kumkol field in Kazakhstan with proven oil reserves of about 170 million barrels (over 20 million metric tons). In 2007, the company produced 3.5 million metric tons of oil. LUKoil and PetroKazakhstan hold 50% in the company each. Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGaz owns 33% of the latter company, with the rest held by CNPC.
An agreement giving LUKoil the right to own a stake in one of CNPC's projects was signed after long court proceedings which began after PetroKazakhstan had changed its owner in the autumn of 2005: CNPC had bought it for $4.18 billion from private investors. Simultaneously, LUKoil turned to the Stockholm Arbitration Court claiming that the transaction had also changed the owners of Turgai Petroleum itself because the Chinese company had become the final owner of a stake in it. Meanwhile, the agreement between Turgai Petroleum's shareholders stipulated the pre-emptive right to buy out the stake in the company should one of the sides decide to withdraw from the project.
In October 2006, LUKoil won the court case: the verdict confirmed that the Russian company had the right to purchase 50% of Turgai Petroleum. "The Arbitration Court's decision is final. If CNPC and LUKoil fail to agree terms on the price, it will be determined by an independent expert as agreed by the sides, or appointed by the Arbitration Court in Stockholm," LUKoil reported then.
According to Valery Nesterov, an analyst at the Troika Dialog investment company, Turgai Petroleum's reserves may be assessed on the basis of the price of $10 per barrel. Thus, the cost of the whole company will reach $1.7 billion.
However, Andrei Batunin, an analyst at Alfa Bank, recalls that the Kazakh legislation gives the country's government the priority right to acquire a stake in companies developing mineral deposits if one of the shareholders withdraws from the project.
Gazeta, RBC Daily
Gazprom Neft expands cooperation with Iran
Gazprom Neft is currently in talks with Iran on the development of three areas in the North Azadegan oil field in Iran, company head Alexander Dyukov told reporters. In six weeks the company will decide whether it will invest in the project. Experts say economic benefits are likely to outweigh political risks.
Gazprom Neft, according to Dyukov, has been invited to join an operator company that will work several sites in North Azadegan (with 5.7 billion metric tons in reserves). The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) will be the license holder. The Russians will have to invest 100% in exchange for the right to 60% of the oil produced. Contract terms allow Gazprom Neft to enter the reserves on its books. "If we decide that the project is worth the effort, we will accept the proposed conditions," the head of the Russian company said.
Iran's representatives are certain of an affirmative response and expect the talks to wind up in the next few months. "We will try to complete the negotiations with Moscow in three months' time," Iran's Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said on Saturday.
The terms offered by NIOC are tough, and need careful risk assessment, said Alexander Shtok, director of the Due Diligence department at the 2K Audit - Business Consultations, an independent consultancy. "With Gazprom Neft focusing on only a few areas, it is difficult to evaluate the overall prospects correctly. On the other hand, the project is enticing enough. This deposit is one of the largest in the world. The Gazprom Group is increasingly focusing on the Iranian sector. One should expect a positive solution on Azadegan by Gazprom's oil subsidiary," the analyst said.
The mixed benefits of the project are highlighted by Andrei Podoinitsyn, director-general of UFG Asset Management. On the one hand, he says, Iran has tremendous hydrocarbon reserves and Gazprom Neft's efforts have economic prospects. On the other hand, with Iran facing a global energy blockade, a Russian state company working new fields there will be a demonstration of a special Moscow-Tehran relationship, which involves high political risks.
Business & Financial Markets, Vedomosti
Russia's largest search engine opens office in Silicon Valley
Yandex, Russia's largest search engine, has opened a U.S. technology and business development facility, Yandex Labs, in the Silicon Valley, California. Vishal Makhijani, formerly SVP and general manager of Yahoo's Search Group, has been appointed as president and CEO of the new company, reporting directly to Arkady Volozh, the co-founder and CEO of Yandex, the company said in a press release.
Arkady Volozh said they have been aware for a long time that good programmers work not only in Moscow or Russia.
Last Friday, several U.S. publications cited sources at Yahoo as saying that the other two top officers to leave the company are Brad Garlinghouse, a Yahoo senior vice president, and top Yahoo techie Qi Lu.
Makhijani has become a third Yahoo top manager to be hired by a Russian Internet company.
The first was Mark Opzoomer, managing director and regional vice president of Yahoo! Europe in 2001-2003, who accepted the post of director general of the Rambler Media Group in early 2007.
The second was Matthew Berardo, Yahoo's senior director for global platforms in the technology division, who is now vice president and general manager of LiveJournal.
Volozh did not say what they did to lure over Vish Makhijani.
Rambler offered Opzoomer $1.097 million (without bonuses). A source at a foreign headhunting company said Makhijani had probably been offered $2.5 million and an option to buy Yandex shares.
The search engine is considering conducting an IPO in late 2008. If the flotation succeeds, Makhijani's annual salary could be increased by 200%-300%, the source at the headhunting agency said.
Dmitry Grishin, head of major Russian Internet company mail.ru, said: "Spending on such a subsidiary will be considerable, but Yandex, which apparently needs to be closer to the largest American players on this market, has decided to pay. As for top U.S. programmers, they are very expensive."
Taken together with institutional spending, Yandex Labs' annual costs could reach $30 million, said Leonid Delitsyn, an analyst at the Finam investment company. The establishment of a Silicon Valley subsidiary is part of the company's preparations for the IPO designed for American investors.
Dutch manager solves the riddle of the mysterious Russian soul
President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday suggested that Russian citizenship should be given to Dutch coach Guus Hiddink. In 2002, Hiddink was given the honorary citizenship of South Korea when the country reached the semifinals of the world championships. In Australia, whose team Hiddink likewise groomed for the 2006 world championships, there were calls to grant him citizenship. The country's postal service issued a special series of stamps showing Guus and some national team players.
Such emotional thanks are understandable, but the Koreans, the Australians and the Dutch (whom he also trained extensively) have all given him top professional marks. Players said that the training was excellently organized.
Korea's Finance Minister Jeon Yun Churl in 2002 described Hiddink as an ideal manager, while the Union of Korean Businessmen invited him to read a course of lectures on effective management.
The successes reported by such different countries in mentality, lifestyle and soccer playing standards show that the laws of management are universal and operate in any country.
Hiddink as a manager has done simple things. He was able to judge the playing levels of individual team members (dropping some veterans) and picked those fit to make the team. Gradually he outlined to his men their strategic and tactical objectives and motives behind them. He learnt from his mistakes and demonstrated ability and flexibility in learning (the squad changed its playing pattern before the European championships and once more two games into the tournament). His contribution to Russian soccer is beyond doubt.
And he did it all without any sniveling about the mysterious Russian soul or the bureaucracy of Russian sport. The bureaucrats, incidentally, are still there, but Hiddink is enjoying a historically unchallenged environment, which he as an expensive and successful manager has bargained for and secured. And now that Russia has put up a brilliant performance and advanced to the Euro 2008 semifinals after decades spent in the backyard of global soccer, few in Russia can say that the price paid for such a manager was too high.
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.