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Gazprom-led venture expects agreement on stake sale to Gasunie

An OAO Gazprom-led venture to build an underwater pipeline linking Russia to Germany may agree by mid-year to sell a 9% stake to Nederlandse Gasunie NV, the Dutch natural-gas network manager, said the project director.

Gasunie plans to buy two 4.5% stakes from Germany's BASF AG and E.ON AG, which each hold 24.5% of the Nord Stream pipeline project under the Baltic Sea. Gazprom, Russia's gas-export monopoly, would take a share in a Gasunie line between the Netherlands and the U.K. under a preliminary accord reached in October by Gazprom and Gasunie. „Talks with Gasunie are taking place right now” and a final agreement will probably come in the „second quarter,” Nord Stream AG Managing Director Matthias Warnig told reporters yesterday in Brussels. „There is no delay.” The 1,200-kilometer Nord Stream pipeline, due to become operational in 2010, represents an effort by Gazprom to increase supplies to Western Europe and avoid transit countries such as Belarus and Ukraine.

The planned pipeline would run through the economic zones of Scandinavian countries including Sweden, where the project has raised environmental concerns. Swedes are worried that laying the pipeline on the seabed may unsettle an area littered with mines from two world wars, disrupt fishing and deter tourists. Warnig and Nord Stream Chairman Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, said they were sensitive to the worries in Sweden. „We take the debate in Sweden very seriously,” Schroeder said at a press conference with Warnig. „I don't think it will be impossible to allay all the concerns.” Nord Stream pledged in a statement handed out at the press conference to „deliver a comprehensive environmental impact assessment in autumn 2007.” (Bloomberg)