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Gazprom übernimmt E.ON und RWE

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03.02.06 16:14

18637 Postings, 6263 Tage jungchenGazprom übernimmt E.ON und RWE

Was waere wenn dies eines Tages ueber die Ticker kaeme? Was wuerde passieren?

In England ist es bald so weit. Gazprom streckt die Fuehler nach Centrica, dem fuehrenden Gas-Anbieter Englands ("British Gas") aus. Es kommt Unruhe auf in den englischen Medien.

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Gazprom takes a tilt at Centrica, but is it safe to be embraced like this by the Russian bear?

Published: 03 February 2006

Just a giant ramp, or is Gazprom serious about bidding for Centrica? Whatever the answer, Centrica's chief executive, Sir Roy Gardner, will be pressing the Takeover Panel for an urgent clarification after remarks yesterday from a senior Gazprom official to the effect that a bid is indeed being considered. If he hasn't already done so, Sir Roy will also be beating a trail to No 10 Downing Street to establish whether it is remotely acceptable for the state-controlled Russian gas monopoly to acquire such a key part of the British gas supply market.

From Norsk Hydro to Shell, Gaz de France and BG Group, every man and his dog is rumoured to be interested in bidding for Centrica, yet Gazprom has long been the most outspoken in expressing an interest. The world's largest gas producer is on record as saying it would like to have at least 20 per cent of the British gas market by 2015, with acquisitions the most obvious way of achieving this goal. Indeed, it is a little puzzling that yesterday's remarks from Alexander Shkuta, Gazprom's deputy general director, should have had such an electrifying effect on the share price, since the company has admitted its interest before.

Even so, I guess there's something of a difference between possibly being interested in bidding, and yesterday's admission that it is actively considering, analysing and reviewing such a move. Mr Shkuta insisted last night that something had been lost in translation, and that in fact his remarks were directed at the UK market as a whole, not Centrica in particular, yet it is hard to see who else he could mean.

Assuming Gazprom is serious, is there any reason for obstructing its advances? As things stand, Russia supplies only about 2 per cent of the UK market's gas needs, but this is expected to rise strongly over the years ahead as North Sea sources of supply decline. To make Britain so beholden to such a potentially hostile and politically unstable source of energy supply is in itself worrying enough, and is one of the main reasons for the Government's belated energy review.

Yet to allow what is in effect an arm of the Russian government to acquire a company which still accounts for 60 per cent of Britain's gas supply market might seem almost wantonly neglectful. As things stand, Centrica derives its gas from a variety of different sources and contracts. In order to protect itself from high levels of volatility in the gas price, it has also been acquiring its own sources of supply, both in the North Sea and the west coast of Africa. The underlying strategy is to seek security of supply in diversity.

With Gazprom as owner, Centrica would presumably quite quickly become only a conduit for Russian supply. In the short term, this might have some positive impact on the price. Gazprom lays claim to about 60 per cent of Russia's gas reserves and is responsible for about a fifth of the world's supply of gas. Despite its inefficencies it is also one of the cheapest sources of gas around.

Yet to see how potentially dangerous it might be for Britain so wholeheartedly to embrace the Russian bear, just look what happened to Ukraine, where for largely political reasons the Russian government overnight trippled the price. In a diplomatic crisis, what is there to stop Gazprom turning off the taps entirely? Britain has prospered by keeping its borders open to inward investment, but there are genuine issues of national security involved here.

Back in the 1980s, the Kuwait Investment Office was ordered to slash its stake in BP on the grounds that this was a sovereign state attempting to take control of a strategically important company. The same standard should be applied with Centrica. It took huge amounts of political capital to free Centrica, once part of British Gas, from the dead but at least largely benign hand of the British state. To stand idly by and watch it renationalised by the Russians really would be a pretty pass.

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DTI tells Centrica: you're on your own
Government will not intervene if Russia's state-controlled Gazprom bids for owner of British Gas

By Michael Harrison, Business Editor and Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Published: 03 February 2006
Centrica, the company which supplies gas to 13 million UK homes, has been told by the Government that it will not receive any special protection if the state-controlled Russian group Gazprom makes a bid for the business.

Shares in Centrica soared yesterday after Gazprom was quoted on the Russian news agency Interfax as saying it was considering a bid for the owner of British Gas, which controls almost 60 per cent of the domestic market. Fortunes were made and lost in a matter of minutes on the London stock market as five times the normal daily volume of Centrica shares changed hands. At first the shares rose25 per cent only to fall to 7 per cent above their opening price, before closing 11 per cent higher at 300p. At that price, Centrica is valued at £11bn.

Interfax reported Alexander Shkuta, the deputy head of Gazprom's export arm, as telling an investor conference call that the issue of a bid for Centrica "is being analysed and under consideration. A decision has yet to be reached." But the agency later reported Gazprom as saying that Mr Shkuta's comments had been misinterpreted. "His answer was not about Centrica. He was talking about any possible energy asset in Britain."

Industry sources pointed out that Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom's deputy chief executive, had made similar comments about Centrica last August, saying the company was considering "all options" regarding the possibility of a bid. Last month, he said Gazprom would like to supply 20 per cent of the UK market, reigniting speculation of a bid either for Centrica or ScottishPower.

A spokesman for Centrica said: "We have seen the quotes but we have not received a bid or had any talks with Gazprom." Privately, the company believes the Russian gas producer is testing the water to gauge political and market reaction. After Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, the prospect of it controlling 60 per cent of the UK market may cause alarm in some circles.

The Department of Trade and Industry and Centrica deny talks have taken place about how the Government would respond in the event that Gazprom decided to bid. The 2003 Enterprise Act allows ministers to intervene in mergers if there is an "exceptional public interest".

But a spokeswoman for the DTI said: "This would only apply if there was an issue of national security. A takeover or merger involving Centrica would be a matter for the independent competition regulators, Ofgem and the Office of Fair Trading."

Gazprom is the biggest producer of gas in the world, Russia's largest company, and is seen by many analysts as one of the Kremlin's most powerful modern-day instruments of influence. Indeed the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was recently asked whether post-Cold War his country's fabulous reserves of oil and gas have replaced his nuclear arsenal as Russia's main "weapon". He smiled before saying "we still have lots of rockets".

Gazprom generates 20 per cent of Russia's tax revenues, supplies 90 per cent of its gas, exports gas to 27 countries including the UK, and employs 330,000 people. Most of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and increasingly large swaths of Western Europe are dependent on its reserves.

Only this week Mr Putin said he wanted to see Gazprom assume its rightful place and become one of the world's most powerful multinationals.

The Kremlin controls 38 per cent of Gazprom but made a concession to the markets and allowed foreigners to buy shares in the company on an equal footing with Russian investors.

Centrica, the company which supplies gas to 13 million UK homes, has been told by the Government that it will not receive any special protection if the state-controlled Russian group Gazprom makes a bid for the business.

Shares in Centrica soared yesterday after Gazprom was quoted on the Russian news agency Interfax as saying it was considering a bid for the owner of British Gas, which controls almost 60 per cent of the domestic market. Fortunes were made and lost in a matter of minutes on the London stock market as five times the normal daily volume of Centrica shares changed hands. At first the shares rose25 per cent only to fall to 7 per cent above their opening price, before closing 11 per cent higher at 300p. At that price, Centrica is valued at £11bn.

Interfax reported Alexander Shkuta, the deputy head of Gazprom's export arm, as telling an investor conference call that the issue of a bid for Centrica "is being analysed and under consideration. A decision has yet to be reached." But the agency later reported Gazprom as saying that Mr Shkuta's comments had been misinterpreted. "His answer was not about Centrica. He was talking about any possible energy asset in Britain."

Industry sources pointed out that Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom's deputy chief executive, had made similar comments about Centrica last August, saying the company was considering "all options" regarding the possibility of a bid. Last month, he said Gazprom would like to supply 20 per cent of the UK market, reigniting speculation of a bid either for Centrica or ScottishPower.

A spokesman for Centrica said: "We have seen the quotes but we have not received a bid or had any talks with Gazprom." Privately, the company believes the Russian gas producer is testing the water to gauge political and market reaction. After Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, the prospect of it controlling 60 per cent of the UK market may cause alarm in some circles.
The Department of Trade and Industry and Centrica deny talks have taken place about how the Government would respond in the event that Gazprom decided to bid. The 2003 Enterprise Act allows ministers to intervene in mergers if there is an "exceptional public interest".

But a spokeswoman for the DTI said: "This would only apply if there was an issue of national security. A takeover or merger involving Centrica would be a matter for the independent competition regulators, Ofgem and the Office of Fair Trading."

Gazprom is the biggest producer of gas in the world, Russia's largest company, and is seen by many analysts as one of the Kremlin's most powerful modern-day instruments of influence. Indeed the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was recently asked whether post-Cold War his country's fabulous reserves of oil and gas have replaced his nuclear arsenal as Russia's main "weapon". He smiled before saying "we still have lots of rockets".

Gazprom generates 20 per cent of Russia's tax revenues, supplies 90 per cent of its gas, exports gas to 27 countries including the UK, and employs 330,000 people. Most of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and increasingly large swaths of Western Europe are dependent on its reserves.

Only this week Mr Putin said he wanted to see Gazprom assume its rightful place and become one of the world's most powerful multinationals.

The Kremlin controls 38 per cent of Gazprom but made a concession to the markets and allowed foreigners to buy shares in the company on an equal footing with Russian investors.
 

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