Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Soros Worried About Russian State Rosneft IPO
26.04.2006 MosNews - George Soros, the billionaire financier, has warned that the Kremlin's planned initial public offering of the state-run Rosneft could legitimize Russia's moves to renationalize chunks of its oil and gas industry and harm Europe's energy security. Writing in today's Financial Times, he warns that the planned flotation of the state-owned oil company on the London Stock Exchange "raises serious ethical and energy security issues". "Europe is relying for a large portion of its energy supplies on a country that does not hesitate to use its monopoly power in devious and arbitrary ways," Soros wrote. "Allowing the Rosneft IPO to go forward would consolidate and legitimize a state of affairs that is detrimental to Europe's energy security and weaken the European Union's hand in negotiating better conditions with Russia." Soros was one of the biggest and earliest portfolio investors in Russia, and has spent millions of dollars promoting civil society. He clashed with some of Russia's 1990s-era "oligarchs", but is now turning his criticism on the government. The Rosneft IPO, expected in July, could raise up to $20bn, making it the world's largest. But Soros highlighted ethical concerns around the fact that Rosneft's biggest asset is Yuganskneftegaz, former main production arm of Yukos, the oil group created by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Rosneft acquired Yugansk in a murky auction after Khodorkovsky was jailed for fraud and Yukos was hit with $28 billion in tax claims. That, said Soros, typifies Russia's dubious methods in reasserting centralized control over energy, including Gazprom, the natural gas giant. In the face of such practices, he says European countries should stop competing with each other to obtain Russian energy and act together.