Tomskneft Split Seen in Cards

Rosneft will split its Tomskneft oil unit 50-50 with Gazprom, boosting the oil business of the gas behemoth, sources close to the deal said.

The deal will end a guessing game over the real owners of the 240,000-barrel-per-day oil unit. Rosneft had said it sold half of Tomskneft in July after buying the unit in May at a Yukos bankruptcy auction.

Tomskneft would become the first Yukos asset that Rosneft has agreed to share. The move comes days after President Vladimir Putin blessed Gazprom chairman Dmitry Medvedev's presidential candidacy.

"Tomsk's cash flows as well as production volumes and export marketing will be equally split from January," one source said Tuesday, adding that Gazprom would own the stake through its Gazprom Neft unit.

Rosneft bought Tomskneft and other assets of Yukos in one lot in May for $6.8 billion in a deal that brought Rosneft's total debt to over $30 billion. The state oil firm later said it sold half the firm to Vneshekonombank, or VEB, for $3.4 billion.

But VEB, which later changed its name to the Development Bank, said it was not involved in the deal, prompting analysts to speculate that it was a warehousing transaction. On Monday, Rosneft vice president for finance Sergei Makarov told reporters that he did not know why VEB had declined to accept the deal.

Rosneft produces 2.3 million bpd and the sale would cut its output by about 5 percent. The sale would increase Gazprom's oil production by 14 percent.