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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Nears Deal On Settling State Debt




Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom is moving closer to a deal with the government on settling billions of dollars in mutual debts, company chief Rem Vyakhirev said Tuesday.


Speaking to reporters at a international gas conference, Gazprom's president said the company had held "important talks" with the government Monday and they had reached a "mutual understanding," the details of which will be revealed in a few days.


Vyakhirev said the proposals under discussion include a deal in which Gazprom would write off its tax debt by swapping it for outstanding payments and a plan to pay more of its debt by barter.


Vyakhirev said Gazprom is owed 102 billion rubles, or $6.37 billion, with national utility company Unified Energy Systems accounting for 40 percent of the arrears and federal and regional governments another 30 percent.


The gas giant received only 46.4 percent of the money it was owed in the first half of 1998, he added.


Gazprom, which brings in one fourth of the nation's revenues, owed the state some 13.954 billion rubles ($875,000) in taxes at the end of September, the tax service said, according to RIA Novosti.


Several government agencies are hammering out the mechanisms for implementing the proposals, and concrete results should come out of a government meeting in 10 days, the Gazprom chief said.


Vyakhirev also said the financial crisis sweeping Russia had put Gazprom in a "grave" situation, forcing it to slash investment projects by two-thirds and delaying employee wages for an average of four months.


Vyakhirev offered praise for Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's new government, but said he was concerned about Cabinet plans to levy higher taxes and export duties on Gazprom.


"I don't think that we can bear any additional burden," he said.


Asked about a new draft budget provision for an export duty of 3 ecu ($3.61) per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, he said the measure was "impossible."


Vyakhirev said the government may revive a failed plan to sell off a stake in the gas company as it looks for ways to come up with extra cash. Russia had proposed selling 5 percent of its 40 percent stake last summer for 10.34 billion rubles but cancelled the sale after the financial crisis significantly devalued the shares.


The privatization is currently being negotiated at talks between the Russian government, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, he said.


Gazprom partner Ruhrgas of Germany is expressing interest in part of the state's stake and Shell and ENI will meet with company officials Friday to discuss a possible sale of Gazprom's own shares, he said.


Sergei Dubinin, who resigned his post as Central Bank chairman last month, was appointed Gazprom deputy chief executive Friday and put in charge of financial matters, Interfax reported Tuesday.