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Gazprom reaches out to touch European consumers

Isn’t it interesting that Gazprom always seems to be so interested in investing in countries whose national energy champions are painfully exposed to the Russian state, like BP and ENI? – analysis by Robert Amsterdam.

Everybody who is anybody is at the 2007 World Energy Congress in Rome, including Alexander Medvedev of Gazprom. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines, he talked about all the power generating assets that his company was looking forward to buying in Europe, as well as taking on a bigger stake in TNK-BP, a rumor which again the British side has denied (the inability to speak transparently about Gazprom’s interest in TNK-BP is almost Russian in its fantastical denial).

Isn’t it interesting that Gazprom always seems to be so interested in investing in countries whose national energy champions are painfully exposed to the Russian state, like BP and ENI? (read: Gazprom eyes energy assets in Europe)

As the authors of the new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations point out, “Russia has strengthened its political relationships by recruiting big business to act as a lobbyist for the Russian cause inside key EU countries.” Perhaps they are also counting on their “lobbyists” to help them navigate and overcome the political opposition to Kremlin-owned energy in the UK and Italy?

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress (WEC) in Rome, Medvedev, who is Gazprom’s export chief, said the gas giant was looking to buy power generation assets or build new ones in Italy, one of the biggest European power markets. “The Italian power market is one of the most interesting in Europe. Therefore, Gazprom, which can deliver gas to Italy, is considering its participation in power generation projects,” Medvedev said. In Britain, where Gazprom has a unit, the Russian company has also been evaluating a number of projects, but they are at a preliminary stage, he said.

Turning to Gazprom’s home turf, Medvedev said the group would consider buying into BP’s Russian oil venture TNK-BP, if shares in the company were up for sale. “As we have said before, if some assets were up for sale, we would be ready to consider them. Our position has not changed,” Medvedev said. Earlier on Monday, TNK-BP’s deputy chairman, Lord Robertson, told Reuters on the WEC fringes there were no talks under way about Gazprom taking a stake in the company whose shareholder structure he said was and would remain stable. Sources at Gazprom told Reuters last week that top-level contacts between BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward and Gazprom’s Alexei Miller had intensified on the future of Russia’s third-biggest oil company. (energypublisher)

Robert Amsterdam is the founding partner of the Toronto-based international law firm Amsterdam & Peroff. In his 25 years of practice, Amsterdam has overseen numerous high profile cases. In 2003, he was retained by the former CEO of Yukos Oil Company. He has been profiled in Business Week, and appeared on the Charlie Rose Show, Fox News Channel, CNN, CNBC and the BBC, with articles published in WSJ, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times and many others.