Russian Energy Sector Weighs EU Sanctions Impact

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The EU sanctions against the Russian energy sector and its corporations announced this week have been left without official comment in Moscow.

Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and Transneft, which have been blacklisted, stay silent as they sift through the details and try to gauge the fallout. The government, meanwhile, is focused on mitigating the immediate blows rather than thinking about the long-term impacts of Brussels' latest punitive measures.

The EU has introduced a ban on new investments in Russia’s energy sector, including oil and gas upstream and downstream, the liquefaction of natural gas or regasification, and activities related to power generation.

But the prohibitions shall not be applied for "critical energy supply within the Union, as well as the transport of fossil fuels, in particular coal, oil and natural gas, from or through Russia into the Union."

This means that there is no ban on purchases of Russian oil and gas since the EU is still highly dependent on energy imports from Russia.

Long-Term Effect

With restrictions targeting future oil and gas growth, Russian companies will have to review their long-term strategies in light of all the restrictions and new challenges. But it's still too early to deal with that task as the priority now is to sell what they currently produce.

Nearly all international companies have already announced plans to withdraw from Russia and/or freeze their investments in the country. But it remains to be seen if the new EU measures would make it possible for international commodity traders Trafigura, Vitol and MME to keep their stakes in Rosneft's ambitious Vostok Oil project in the Russian Arctic onshore that plans to produce 2 million barrels per day by 2030.

Trafigura, which paid €7 billion ($9 billion) for a 10% stake in Vostok Oil, has already said it is "reviewing the options in respect of our passive shareholding in Vostok Oil in which we have no operational or managerial input."

On top of their payments for the stakes in Vostok Oil, the traders were not supposed to participate in the further financing of the $100 billon project. Rosneft planned to attract new investors and also to rely on tax allowances from the state.

Having learnt its lesson from the 2014 sanctions after the annexation of Crimea, Rosneft has increased its reliance on domestic players. On the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last June, for example, Rosneft signed 73 contracts worth 616.5 billion rubles ($5.5 billion) mainly with Russian contractors for work on Vostok Oil.

Rosneft has also been developing its own field services unit, which handles more than 50% of the producer's needs.

It remains to be seen how new sanctions could impact Rosneft's subsidiary in Germany, the third-largest refiner in the country. Rosneft Deutschland operates the company's 91.67% stake in the PCK (Schwedt) refinery, 24% in the Miro plant and 28.57% in Bayernoil, and supplies oil products to the German market.

Nationalization Prospects

The need for economic mobilization in Russia under the unprecedented external pressure, again raised questions about the possible nationalization and consolidation of the Russian oil and gas sector. With share prices of Russian companies having dropped to less than $1 on the London Stock Exchange, rumors have re-emerged about the possible purchase of Lukoil, Russia's second-largest oil producer, by a state-controlled company. However, the government's main focus now is aimed at lifting administrative, taxation and other obstacles for private businesses with the goal of providing greater freedom.

The government will increase its share in the country's economy by taking under control companies and enterprises being abandoned by foreigners. The government has also allocated 1 trillion rubles ($10 billion) for the purchase of the Russian companies' shares from the market. However, the government plans to sell those assets in future.

Russian companies could start buying their shares from the market as well. Rosneft has already announced it would resume purchasing its stock having extended its buyback program until the end of 2023. The company could spend about $1.6 billion on the program.

Sanctions, Conventional Oil and Gas, Corporate Strategy
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