Rosneft sells stakes in two Siberian oil fields to Indian firms

The Russian oil firm will sell stakes in two Siberian oil and gas fields to IOC, Oil India, Bharat Petroleum and ONGC Videsh

Gireesh Chandra Prasad, Elizabeth Roche
Updated17 Mar 2016
Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Photo: Mint<br />
Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Russian energy giant Rosneft OJSC has agreed to sell substantial stakes in two Siberian oil and gas fields to state-run Indian oil companies, advancing India’s efforts to safeguard its energy security through the acquisition of overseas assets.

The deals, signed during a visit to India by Rosneft’s president and chairman Igor Ivanovich Sechin, are together worth an estimated $4.2 billion (around 28,253 crore), Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. Mint couldn’t independently ascertain the total value of the deals and how it had been calculated.

Indian Oil Corp. Ltd, Oil India Ltd and a unit of Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd signed an agreement to purchase a 29.9% stake in Tass-Yuryakh oilfield from Rosneft. PTI cited unnamed top officials as putting the value of the deal at $1.28 billion.

The field currently produces 20,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) with peak production of 100,000 bopd expected by 2021, an Indian Oil statement said.

The Indian consortium also signed an agreement with Rosneft for buying a 23.9% stake in the Vankor oilfield, a deal PTI said was worth just over $2 billion.

ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), signed a separate agreement to buy an additional 11% stake in the Vankor field. OVL will pay $925 million for the additional stake, PTI said, taking its holding in the asset to 26%. In September, OVL acquired 15% of Vankor for $1.26 billion.

A fourth deal signed on Wednesday will allow Oil India, Indian Oil and Bharat PetroResources Ltd, the Bharat Petroleum subsidiary, to make more acquisitions in the Vankor cluster, said an oil ministry statement.

Officials familiar with the deals said due diligence on the Vankor asset was still under way and a final price was yet to be agreed upon.

Western sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a glut in international oil markets that have caused crude prices to slump have made the valuations of the Siberian assets attractive for India, which has been striving to protect its energy security by acquiring assets overseas in competition with China.

“This is a good time to be picking assets abroad as prices are low, so this is a good move. My complaint has been that India has never been aggressive when prices are low. So this a good move at the right time,” said Sunjoy Joshi, director at the New Delhi-based Observer Foundation think-tank.

Wednesday’s agreements give Indian firms a 49.9% holding in the Vankor oil field managed by Rosneft subsidiary Vankorneft. This field produced 22 million tonnes of oil in 2014, equal to about a 10th of Rosneft’s total output.

The deals mean that state-controlled Rosneft, which needs to pay off debts incurred in its $55-billion acquisition of TNK-BP in March 2013, is selling almost half of its most promising assets to Indian firms. The acquisition had made Rosneft the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer by output.

“Our cooperation provides for the Indian companies gaining access to production projects within the territory of Russia. Rosneft, in turn, gets the opportunity to operate in the Indian market,” Sechin told reporters after signing the agreements, adding that the countries had established a reliable energy bridge.

For Rosneft, the partnerships with Indian oil companies will mean lower exploration risk.

The sale is part of Rosneft’s attempt to develop fields more efficiently with global partners. The company last year sold a 20% stake in Taas-Yuryakh to BP Plc. and announced a sale to China’s Sinopec of a 49% stake in two subsidiaries that hold licenses for exploration in the Yurubcheno-Tokhomskoe and Russkoe fields.

“The deal parameters will be reported to the market later. As a result of these transactions, Rosneft will have an opportunity to work together with Indian partners,” said Sechin.

A statement from the Russian government said, “Indian partners will obtain a substantial share in one the best upstream projects in the world with sizeable reserves of high-quality feedstock and one of the lowest lifting costs in the industry”.

The agreements were signed in the presence of oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin and officials from the companies.

Separately, Rosneft also said it had made progress in talks with Essar Oil Ltd towards a deal to buy a 49% stake in the Indian company and an announcement is likely by June.

Essar Oil operates the country’s second biggest private sector oil refinery at Vadinar in Gujarat.

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