Gazprom Export chief shrugs off cartel claims
The rapidly growing Turkish economy has started to garner more attention from international investors, indicated by the fact that 17 American firms and Russia's largest company, Gazprom, are now considering investing in Turkey's energy market. The companies from the US are mostly interested in the renewable energy business in Turkey, while Gazprom, the world's largest national gas extractor, is seriously looking for an opportunity in the country's electricity market.
Speaking to a group of reporters in Ankara on Wednesday, Michael Lally, commercial counselor at the US Embassy, said American companies such as Abound Solar, AES Corporation, Clipper Windpower, General Electric, Megtec Systems and SolarReserve are among those that will make a business trip to Turkey starting Dec. 5. It will be the first time for 11 of those companies to seek business opportunities in Turkey, Lally said, adding that cooperation with Turkish companies in third countries, particularly in Russia, the Caucasus and Africa, will also be on the table during discussions to be held during their stay in Turkey.
Representatives from the Export-Import Bank of the United States and a number of other financial organizations will also be taking part in the meetings to be held in İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir as part of the planned visit, Lally also said.
The news related to Gazprom, on the other hand, hit online portals after Alexander Medvedev, director-general of the Russian company's export arm Gazprom Export, announced the company's intentions in Turkey. “We are ready to enter Turkey's electricity market, not only as a supplier but also an investor,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency Thursday. Gazprom's venture into Turkey's domestic electricity market would likely be in partnership with a local operator.
Speaking with Today's Zaman on Tuesday, a spokesman for Gazprom declined to comment on specific targets being considered by the state-owned gas giant. “Gazprom is at the preliminary stage of discussions regarding investment in Turkey's electricity grid. We will continue to evaluate the different options in terms of electrical grids in Turkey and potential partners,” he said.
The move follows failed privatization tenders this year for the Akdeniz Elektrik grid in Turkey's Mediterranean region and İstanbul's Anadolu and Rumeli grids as well as the Toroslar, Dicle, Gediz and Trakya grids after the highest bidders for each failed to make payments by the respective deadlines.
The inability of top bidders provide funds on time reflects the difficulty of procuring funds from international investors in the current financial climate, analysts suggest. Gazprom, awash with cash after net profit jumped 56 percent to $25 billion for the first half of 2011, could fill the void, benefitting from one of the fastest growing electricity markets in the world, with energy demand expected to double between now and 2020.
Medvedev said on Wednesday that negotiations with private Turkish gas distributors were taking place this month in response to the cancelled western pipeline deal with the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAŞ), which saw 6 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas supplied through the Balkans annually. "We will decide on the procedure to be applied to Turkey regarding gas sale as of January 1, 2012 during our meeting with Turkish executives in November," with meetings scheduled for next week in İstanbul, Medvedev said.
Medvedev said that Gazprom would be seeking agreements reflecting the market price for gas, with the company pushing for further liberalization of the gas market and a move away from the subsidized rates that governed long-term contracts with BOTAŞ in the past.
In October, BOTAŞ cancelled the contract after Gazprom refused to offer a rebate on gas prices. Medvedev refuted analysts' suggestion that the terminated contract was surplus to Turkey's requirements, saying that Turkey needed Russian gas.
Gazprom supplied 63 percent of all of Turkey's gas imports in 2010, with the cancelled deal representing one-third of that.
Even before the sales process for the government-owned stake of petrochemicals group Oltchim (Rîmnicu Vîlcea / Romania; www.oltchim.ro) officially began – see Plasteurope.com of 14.11.2011 – Romanian Economics Minister Ion Ariton was holding talks with a Russian delegation. According to a report from Bucharest, the managers of utilities company Tise (Moscow / Russia; www.tisegroup.com) "are interested in a takeover and in continuing the business". Ariton pointed to the invitation to tender which was about to be opened, saying that Tise could participate. The government wants to complete the sale of the 54.8% share package by the end of April 2012.
Tise was founded in 2003 by several Russian companies, including Tehnopromexport, Zarubejneft and Zarubejneftegaz. At least the latter is a wholly owned subsidiary of oil and gas giant Gazprom.
In the meantime, General Director Constantin Roibu has once again decreed technical unemployment due to a lack of working capital and a shortage of raw materials. As a result, 1,000 employees will stay at home from 15-30 November – with 80% remuneration.
For Q3 2011, the company reported sales of EUR 75m – down 7% compared with the previous year. The operating loss of around EUR 15m was considerably higher than in the same period of the previous year (EUR 500,000) and also higher than in Q2 2011 (EUR 5.5m). The net loss in Q3 amounted to EUR 24m compared with a loss of EUR 14m in the previous quarter. In Q3 2010, the figures were only just in the red.
Over the first nine months, although Oltchim managed to lift sales by 38% to a good EUR 296m, the net loss of EUR 41m is comparable with the figure for the same period last year.
Published on 17.11.2011
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