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Friday, April 03, 2009

Russneft resale talks on hold due price - sources

April 3, 2009 - Reuters by Katya Golubkova - MOSCOW,Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM) has suspended talks with indebted aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska about the purchase of his oil firm Russneft due to disagreement over the price, sources familiar with the talks said. Deripaska, who is in talks to restructure $7.4 billion of debt at his main asset, the world's largest aluminium producer, UC RUSAL, agreed to buy Russneft from businessman Mikhail Gutseriyev in 2007. Gutseriyev fled Russia as police pursued him for tax debts and Deripaska has been waiting for over a year and a half to get clearance from anti-monopoly authorities to complete the Russneft purchase, which cost $3 billion according to estimates by industry sources. The deal was financed with the help of state-run bank Sberbank (SBER03.MM), which holds Russneft shares as collateral and is insisting on the change of ownership of Russneft, sources said. The bank had wanted Russneft to be taken over by Gazprom's oil arm, Gazprom Neft (SIBN.MM). "Gazprom Neft wants to buy Russneft for nothing and take on its debts," one source close to talks said on condition of anonymity, because he is not allowed to comment publicly on the deal. "Russneft's new management is seeking a buyer but if Gazprom Neft agrees it would be a miracle," he added. Russneft has recently changed its management and is now run by former managers of Deripaska's investment vehicle Basel. Gazprom Neft has offered to buy Russneft by assuming its debt, estimated at $5.6 billion, while Deripaska believes the mid-sized producer is worth $7.5-$8.0 billion, Vedomosti business daily said on Friday. Gazprom Neft, Sberbank and Basel declined to comment. Russneft produces around 300,000 barrels per day from fragmented fields spread all over Russia and its main refining asset is the 130,000 barrels per day Orsk refinery. Deripaska's Basel total debt is estimated at $25-$30 billion amassed to fuel growth in the past years. Apart from RUSAL, Basel's car maker GAZ (GAZA.RTS) is also involved in restructuring talks with Russian and foreign lenders.

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