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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bonds to Aid Buyout of Sibneft

Itar-TassSibneft may be bought by Gazprom by year's end, the gas giant said.
LONDON -- Gazprom plans to sell $4.5 billion of bonds to help finance the purchase of a controlling stake in oil company Sibneft, bankers involved in the transaction said Wednesday.

Gazprom may agree next week to buy 72 percent of Sibneft, Russia's fifth-biggest oil producer, from a group of investors led by billionaire Roman Abramovich, bankers arranging the $12 billion in financing said.

The bankers declined to be identified.

Gazprom may buy Sibneft by year's end, deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev said today in Beijing.

CEO Alexei Miller wants to buy oil assets so state-run Gazprom can compete with ExxonMobil to be the world's largest producer of oil and gas. Investors are buying record amounts of Russian stocks, bonds and loans, lured by a seven-year economic boom.

Gazprombank, a Gazprom unit, last week said it raised $1 billion in a bond sale after getting $6.5 billion in orders from almost 400 money managers.

"People like the story behind Russia," said Christian Schiweck, head of emerging market bonds at DWS Investment in Frankfurt, which manages 3 billion euros. "Russia is one of the few countries benefiting from high oil prices."

Talks to acquire Sibneft are "very difficult at any time," Medvedev said at a news conference. Gazprom will fund the transaction from internal resources and bank loans, he said.

Gazprom spokesman Igor Volobuyev declined to comment on whether bond sales are planned.

ABN AMRO and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein last week agreed to underwrite half of the $12 billion loan package for the Sibneft acquisition, clearing the way for Gazprom to bid for the company at any time, the bankers involved in the transaction said.

The loan would rank as Russia's biggest, surpassing the $7.5 billion that Rosneft is raising to pay for a 10.7 percent stake in Gazprom. The government said last week that state-owned Rosneft plans to repay that loan by selling shares in an initial public offering.

 Shares in Gazprom surged 8 percent on Wednesday to a new record on rumors of an imminent opening of its free float to foreign buyers, Reuters reported.

Russia has promised to scrap foreign investment restrictions in Gazprom shares by year-end.

"The rumor around the campfire is that liberalization is imminent -- any day now," said Alfa Bank trader Kirill Surikov.

Gazprom shares hit an all-time high of 141 rubles, up 7.8 percent, in turnover of almost $300 million, double the usual daily average, giving the firm a market capitalization of over $110 billion based on the local stock.