Sunday, October 16, 2005

A puzzle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

The company with the the largest hydrocarbon reserves on the planet?

No, not Taco Bell.

Actually, I'm not sure who it is, but Gazprom is way up there. I believe they might be #1. There are two main problems:

A.) What the %&*^ is Putin up to?

B.) The shares available for overseas investors trade at quite a premium to the shares available to domestic investors (Russians) because of certain restrictions on the shares. In the US, they are available via the pink sheets, OGZPF. In theory, Putin Gazprom intends to remove these restrictions once they have rolled up the ownership of most of Russia's hydrocarbon reserves, which should result in the premium disappearing. They are all kinds of swindles going on as overseas investors try to invest at the cheap domestic price via local entities, front companies, etc in anticipation of this move.

Is it something to throw a little speculative money at? Your guess is as good as mine. Probably yes, a small amount.

But you didn't hear that from me.

P.S. This company is sometimes referred to as "The Saudi Arabia of natural gas." Yes, that big.

P.P.S Gotta love those Slovakians.

LA Times: As Gazprom Grows, So Does Russia's Sway.


The government has acted to take firm ownership of 51% of Gazprom. Meanwhile, it is pushing through legislation allowing foreign investors full access to the remaining 49%. Moreover, an initial placement offer of a minority of Rosneft shares is contemplated for mid-2006, according to the Russian Economy Ministry.

"From an economic standpoint, they're liberalizing in a quite dramatic way, compared to any other country in the world," said William F. Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management.

"A lot of people have characterized the Sibneft deal as being some kind of renationalization, or the government stepping into the oil sector. But if you look at it economically, instead of Roman Abramovich owning Sibneft, foreigners and minority shareholders are going to end up being able to indirectly own 49% of Sibneft via that share liberalization of Gazprom," he said. "It seems to me that foreigners are getting more access, rather than less, through this combination of deals."

Yet state control means the Kremlin calls the shots, and Gazprom continues to be available as an instrument of Russian foreign policy.