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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Rosneft seeks world oil support

From The Financial Times:
By Joanna Chung and Rebecca Breamin London

Published: July 3 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 3 2006 03:00

Petronas, Malaysia’s state oil company, and China National Petroleum Corp are planningto invest up to $2bn each in Rosneft as the Russian oil giant seeks support for its initial public offering.

Rosneft, which hopes to raise $10bn-$11.7bn through listings in London and Moscow at the end of next week, is understood to be in discussions with at least four oil companies about becoming strategic investors.

Talks with Petronas and CNPC, one of China’s largest oil companies, are understood to be furthest advanced, with each company considering investing between $1bn and $2bn in the IPO, one of the world’s biggest.

Rosneft’s valuation has been seen as too high by some investors, who, in spite of the potential for long-term growth are concerned about the legal risks relating to the acquisition of Rosneft’s main asset.

Most of Rosneft’s output and future growth comes from Yuganskneftegaz,bought in a controversial series of deals in 2004 after the forced break up of Yukos, the private sector oil company built up by jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

But the purchase of a stake in Rosneft by an international group could offer political advantages in Russia, which has some of the largest oil reserves.

Though the talks with Petronas and CNPC are at an advanced stage, people close to the deal warned both investments could still fall through. “There are real numbers and real commitments being discussed,” one person close to the flotation said yesterday.

BP and Shell, the UK oil groups, have also been offered the chance to buy stakes in Rosneft. But they are understood to be cautious about signing up to the sale, mainly because they believe the flotation has been priced too aggressively.

The current price range for the offering would value Rosneft at $60bn-$80bn. “[BP and Shell] have been the most vociferous about their view on the valuation,” said another person with knowledge of the discussions.

Rosneft declined to comment. Petronas and CNPC could not be reached.

Meanwhile, Severstal, the Russian steel company, is considering a London flotation following the failure of its merger plans with Arcelor.

Sources close to Severstal said yesterday that a London listing was “a natural option”. A firm decision is likely after the summer, but a flotation could take place relatively quickly, as much of the information prepared for the Arcelor deal could be re-used for a flotation prospectus.

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