Rosneft President Sergei Bogdanchikov said Thursday that if BP decides to sell its minority stake in the Russian oil producer, it will not inflict any economic damage. "There won't be any economic damage if they need to leave," Bogdanchikov said in a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said the government would consider buying the stake from BP, which plans to sell $10 billion worth of global assets following its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Rosneft shares dropped 5.2 percent on Thursday as rumors swirled that BP may have to dump its 1.4 percent stake in the country's largest oil producer.
The main reason for the sale of Rosneft shares is speculation that BP may have to sell its stake, said Timur Nasardinov, head trader at Troika Dialog. It's mostly Western clients that are doing the selling, he added. BP announced Wednesday that it would create a $20 billion escrow fund to cover claims from those suffering losses because of the continuing oil spill. The oil major's board of directors decided to freeze dividend payments until the end of the year, giving the company an extra $7.5 billion. In addition, BP said it would cut its investment program and sell as much as $10 billion of assets.
Bogdanchikov also said Rosneft was in talks with LUKoil to acquire a 5.65 percent stake in Russia's only privately operated pipeline, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. LUKoil owns 12.5 percent in the consortium through its subsidiary Lukarco. Rosneft already indirectly owns 3.83 percent through a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell. Separately, oil major Chevron and Rosneft agreed Thursday to jointly develop a deposit on Russia's Black Sea shelf, with Chevron financing initial exploration activities. "The exploration stage will cost $1 billion," Russia's top energy official, Sechin, said after the signing ceremony, held at Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's residence outside Moscow.
Sechin said drilling at the Val Shatskogo oil field on the Black Sea shelf, which holds about 860 million metric tons of oil, could begin at the end of 2011. At the meeting with Putin, Chevron CEO John Watson raised the question of tax benefits for the field. "It is a highly prospective area, it has geological risks and high costs. We will need to work with the government to ensure that a proper fiscal regime is in place," Watson said. Sechin told reporters after the meeting that if exploration is successful, total investment for exploration and production at the field could amount to as much as 1 trillion rubles ($32 billion).