Russia and Greece sign deal on gas pipeline: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmCL5b1Id3U
Russia and Greece have finalized their strategic joint venture, the South Stream Pipeline. This pipeline, also known as the Alexandroupolis-Burgas pipeline, will bypasses Turkey and will eventually be able to deliver to western Europe approximately 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The pipeline's construction is to be completed by 2011. Once completed the pipeline will be used to transport Russian gas from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Greek Aegean port of Alexandroupolis. Another branch of the pipeline is expected to go north through Romania, Hungary and Austria. The geopolitical/geo-economic ramifications of this pipeline project is quite significant and cannot be ignored. Russia is not only engaging NATO and EU members directly, it is also bypassing its major competitor in the region, Turkey. The South Stream project is also a potential death blow to western oil/gas exploitation projects in the region, namely the Nabucco/Trans-Caspian pipeline. This is the continuation of Russia's multi-pronged attempt at directly impacting the politics and the economy of the region in question by empowering nations that maintain good relations with Moscow.
Russia, Greece sign deal on South Stream gas pipeline
Greece formally signed on Tuesday a deal to join Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom's (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) 10 billion euros ($15.58 billion) South Stream gas pipeline. The pipeline, which will be jointly built by Gazprom and Italy's ENI (ENI.MI: Quote, Profile, Research), will take 31 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Russian gas to southern Europe per year after it is commissioned in 2013. "The signing of the agreement to construct the Greek part of the South Stream pipeline has become the most important result (of the talks)," Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the Kremlin. Earlier this year, Russia agreed to route the South Stream pipeline through Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, marking major victories in a 'pipeline war' with the European Union. Analysts see the South Stream project as posing a major challenge to the rival U.S. and EU-backed Nabucco pipeline scheme. Tuesday's deal with Greece struck yet another blow.
Under Nabucco, gas would come from ex-Soviet Azerbaijan to south Europe via Turkey in an EU effort to diversify energy sources away from reliance on Russia, though experts say the pipeline's fruition is becoming increasingly more difficult as Azeri reserves are questioned. "Such (a) truly forward-looking and pragmatic approach by the Greek leadership will bear solid dividends for Greece, the Balkans and Europe as a whole very soon," Putin said after Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko and Greek Minister of Development Christos Folias signed the agreement. Under the South Stream scheme, Russian gas will go from the Novorossiisk port, travel 900 kms under the Black Sea, re-emerge on the Bulgarian coast and then continue through one of two onshore routes.
Going south to Mediterranean countries, gas will go to Greece and on to Italy. Khristenko said 10 bcm per day would be piped to Greece per year, but declined to say how much the domestic Greek market would absorb. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said the pipe would go under the seabed from Greece to Italy, agencies quoted him as saying. Going north, gas could then pass through Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria before arriving in Italy, although final routing is unclear. Earlier this month Gazprom said it was discussing the possibility to extend the South Stream through Slovenia. The South Stream's feasibility study will be concluded by the end of this year, Gazprom has said.
South Stream Turns toward Greece
Greece joined the Russian-Italian South Stream yesterday. An agreement was signed on the construction of a section of the pipeline across Greece with a capacity of 10 billion cu. m. of natural gas per year. Russian Ministerof Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko and Greek Minister of Development Christos Folias signed the agreement in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. Gazprom was forced to promise Greece a long-term contract for gas delivery with growing volume through 2013. Athens also retained the right to diversify its supplies with gas from Algeria and Turkey. Similarly to the agreements reached with Hungary and Bulgaria, Gazprom will form a joint venture with the Greek company DEPA to participate in South Stream. The agreement foresees tax benefits until the recoupment of the investment in the pipeline. The South Stream pipeline will stretch from Russia to Italy with a 30-billion cu. m. capacity. It is to be completed by 2013. It will run for 900 km. under the Caspian Sea and branch out in Bulgaria, with one line leading to Greece and onward to the Italian city of Brindisi, and another line running through Serbia, Hungary and Austria or Slovenia to northern Italy. Putin acknowledged yesterday that the Greek prime minister “is a strict negotiator.” Greece receives 90 percent of its natural gas and 30 percent of its oil from Russia.
In related news:
Gazprom Set to Top GE as No. 4 Company on Gas Rally
Russia's OAO Gazprom is poised to unseat General Electric Co. as the world's fourth-largest company by market value after energy prices rose to records and GE's first earnings decline in five years erased $50 billion from its stock. Gazprom, the world's biggest natural gas producer, increased 22 percent on Moscow's Micex Exchange to $319.4 billion in the past year as the fuel rallied 43 percent. GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, dropped 7 percent to $323 billion on the New York Stock Exchange. The world's largest maker of locomotives and jet engines retreated the most in 20 years on April 11 as earnings fell on credit losses in its financial services units, which accounted for more than half of GE's profit in 2007.
"There has been a growing question mark around GE with so much leverage to finance,'' said Bruce McCain, the Cleveland- based head of investment strategy at Key Private Bank, which manages $40 billion. "You were paying an industrial multiple for a company that was 50 percent financial. The credit crisis underscores that a financial company is more risky.'' Gazprom, established in Moscow 15 years ago from the Soviet Gas Industry Ministry, and GE, which Thomas Edison helped create in 1892, are converging as the U.S. economy slows and Russia grows at its highest annual rate this decade. GE stunned investors on April 11 when Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said 2008 earnings will fall short of his previous forecast and first-quarter profit dropped at four of its six biggest units.
`In the Bag'
Immelt, who reiterated the 2008 forecast on March 13 after saying it was ``in the bag'' in December, blamed the results on weakening credit markets. The collapse of the subprime mortgages last year and the ensuing credit contraction saddled the world's largest financial institutions with $290 billion of writedowns and losses. Immelt today raised his cost-cutting goal by 50 percent and said GE will sell underperforming units. Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc. cut their ratings on the shares. Gazprom, the state-run supplier of a quarter of Europe's natural gas, reported third-quarter profit of 113.1 billion rubles ($4.8 billion) in February, beating by 18 percent the median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Gains in oil and natural gas have helped boost the stock. Crude rose to a record $119.90 a barrel in New York yesterday, boosted by demand from countries expanding faster than the U.S. Russia's 9.5 percent annual economic growth trails only China's 10.6 percent rate of increase among the 15 largest economies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. economy is growing at a 2.5 percent yearly pace.
"Money's piling in because it's the cleanest way to get into these markets and get exposure to these commodities,'' said Peter Sorrentino, Cincinnati-based senior portfolio manager at Huntington Asset Advisors, which manages $15 billion. "There are very few ways to play with large money in the Russian market.'' Gazprom, whose chairman Dmitry Medvedev will succeed Vladimir Putin as Russia's president on May 7, says it has enough reserves to meet global demand for a decade. The government, which caps charges to Russian consumers, is gradually increasing domestic prices to European levels and in December said Gazprom can raise them by as much as 25 percent in 2008. GE rose 0.1 percent to $32.36 in NYSE trading today. Gazprom added 0.6 percent to 315.72 rubles.
Asia-Pacific to get 30% of Russia’s natural gas exports by 2020
Russia will increase natural gas exports to Pacific Rim countries from the current 3% to 30% of its total exports by 2020, a Russian envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday. “This will be an important Russian contribution to ensuring energy security in the Asia-Pacific region,” the Foreign Ministry quoted Yevgeny Afanasyev, envoy to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, as saying. Afanasyev said the planned increase is due to the region’s brisk economic growth against a backdrop of rising energy prices. The Russian envoy said the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific could serve as a good platform for dialogue between energy producers and consumers in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure energy security and search for the most effective methods of solving energy problems. “Such cooperation could include information exchanges on energy polices, measures to determine areas for joint investment to develop energy infrastructure, analysis of regulatory and legal frameworks in the energy sphere, and efforts to harmonize standards and invest in energy and transit of energy products,” Afanasyev said.
EU rules out linking Russia up to Nabucco pipeline
The European Commission ruled out on Monday the possibility of linking Russia up to the Nabucco gas pipeline, stressing that Europe would stick to its aim of diversifying EU supplies. Nabucco, which is supposed to supply the bloc with gas from the Caspian Sea region by 2012-2013 while bypassing Russia, lies at the heart of the European Union's diversification strategy. "Russia is working with its own project, South Stream," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Pielbalgs told reporters hours after meeting Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko. "They have never expressed any wish to join Nabucco," Pielbalgs said. "We should not ask Russia to join a project which they have never shown interest to join." He said there were currently no discussions between Russia's Gazprom and the Nabucco consortium and "we should not speculate on issues that are not on the agenda. "Safety and security in energy is in diversity," he added. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner also excluded the possibility of linking Russia up to the Nabucco network. "It's of high strategic interest and importance that we keep to our strategic goal of diversification, not just other resources but also other pipelines," she said, announcing that Egypt would contribute some two billion cubic metres of gas per year to the pipeline from 2010. "Russia will always be an important supplier but we also have big countries around that have potentially very big reserves and they need to develop their reserves," she said. The consortium behind Nabucco has struggled to get construction underway in the absence of enough investors amid fears that the EU will not find the 30 billion cubic metres of gas per year necessary for it to be viable. Against that backdrop, former head of the International Energy Agency Claude Mandil said in April that Russia should be associated with Nabucco, which enjoys US backing.