Gazprom: US Companies Want to Buy Yukos Assets

MOSCOW Feb.8, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Large U.S. energy companies have expressed "concrete interest" in buying the assets of bankrupt Russian oil producer OAO Yukos (YUKO.RS), Russian gas monopoly OAO Gazprom (GSPBEX.RS) said Thursday after its chief executive met with the U.S. ambassador to Moscow.

Gazprom said its CEO Alexei Miller had met with Ambassador William Burns to discuss "cooperation in the energy sector".

"In particular, the interest of large American companies in hydrocarbon production projects in Russia was expressed, including concrete interest in the acquisition of the assets of Yukos," Gazprom said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy later clarified that it was Gazprom, rather than Burns, who had raised the issue.

"In the course of a regular working meeting, Gazprom raised the continuing interest of private U.S. companies in investing in the Russian energy sector."

"In that context, Gazprom mentioned an inquiry it had received about Yukos assets," she added.

Any interest from U.S. companies in Yukos' assets would represent a major shift in U.S. thinking toward the notorious affair, which is currently nearing its final act as court-appointed receivers prepare to liquidate what is left of the company.

No-one at Gazprom was immediately available to say which company had expressed interest.

Yukos' controlling shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky had conducted extensive talks with both Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) over the sale of a stake in the company before his arrest in 2003.

U.S. administration and industry officials, in more or less explicit terms, have tended to condemn the Yukos affair as a politically-motivate expropriation undermining confidence in the rule of law in Russian in general, especially as it regards the energy sector.

Gazprom said that the two sides had also discussed the possibility of U.S. companies submitting bids to work on the Shtokman gas project in the Barents Sea.

Gazprom last year rejected all the offers from its shortlisted partners on the Shtokman regarding the terms of its development, saying that the partners hadn't offered attractive enough assets in return.

The company needs foreign contractors for offshore production, in which it has no experience. It also needs foreign technology for the liquefaction of at leaast a part of Shtokman's gas.

Shtokman was originally conceived as an LNG project to serve the North American market, but Gazprom said last year it would ship gas by pipeline to the European Union instead.

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