Statoil Takes $355M Charge On Shtokman Write-off

OSLO - Norway's Statoil ASA said Tuesday it had written off its 24% stake in a consortium developing Russia's Arctic Shtokman gas field after the agreement lapsed, but remained interested in the project.

The initial agreement, in which Russia's OAO Gazprom held a controlling 51% stake and France's Total SA 25% in the consortium, expired at the end of June with the three companies failing to agree on technical and financial plans to develop the massive gas field.

As it had stated it would do if the agreement lapsed, Statoil booked a charge of 2.1 billion kroner (EUR 286 million or USD 355 million) that completely writes off the value of the stake, said spokesman Fredrik Norman.

"But we remain in discussions with Gazprom with the goal of continuing this project in a profitable way," he told AFP.

Some analysts nevertheless said the move may signal a possible disengagement by Statoil from the technologically complex and expensive project as the company has other projects which would provide higher returns.

Statoil and Total were reported to have been unhappy with cost overruns and delays that hit the Gazprom-led venture--a field discovered two decades ago but still untapped because of its forbidding environment in the Arctic.

Total has declined to comment on the future of Shtokman's development except to signal its continued interest.

Gazprom said the makeup of the consortium to develop the Barents Sea field it believes holds enough natural gas to supply the world for a year would not be decided before September.

Russian news reports said Royal Dutch Shell PLC may join the project.


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