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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

PwC Loses Contract For Sakhalin-2 Audit

The $22 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project, taken over last year by Gazprom, has dropped PricewaterhouseCoopers as its auditor, the Industry and Energy Ministry said in a report obtained Friday.

Gazprom said earlier this week that it had kept PwC on as its own auditor, a vote of confidence after the "big four" accounting firm lost its job as auditor to carmaker AvtoVAZ and ran into trouble working for the now-bankrupt oil firm Yukos.

But Gazprom has terminated the firm's 10 years as auditor to Sakhalin-2, according to the government's annual review of production-sharing agreements, of which Sakhalin-2 is one.

"Its work was viewed by Russia as unsatisfactory because of its constant comments relating to completion of the audit accounts and the amount of reimbursable expenditure," the Industry and Energy Ministry report said.

Under the production-sharing agreement, the state only gets royalties from the project after reimbursing the operator's capital investments.

The document said that after a tender process, the new auditor would be a Russian company, Finekspertiza.

Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, who sits on the Sakhalin-2 supervisory board, denied that PwC had suffered because of its link to Yukos.

"I don't see any signal or any sensation here," he said at a news conference on Friday. "The decision about the change of auditor was taken by the supervisory board. Decisions like this are taken, as a rule, to stop blood clotting in the veins. This isn't a family thing, this is business."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said earlier this month that the authorities should not apply the law selectively in their probe of PwC after a court ruled it had breached rules while auditing Yukos.

The court fined PwC about $500,000 on charges of producing false audits for Yukos and helping it evade tax, and the firm must now wait to find if its license to work in Russia, which expires next month, will be renewed.

PwC is also facing a separate $11 million back-tax claim.

Russia is considering cutting payments to the operators of the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 offshore oil and gas projects after auditors reviewed the costs of the work.

The Industry and Energy Ministry said in a report on the projects' results for 2006 that independent auditors recommended cutting reimbursable expenses to Sakhalin-1 operator ExxonMobil by 10.4 percent, or $370 million, for 2004 and 2005 together.

The 76-page report also said reimbursable expenses of Sakhalin Energy, the operator of the Sakhalin-2 project, should be lowered by 7.2 percent, or $362.5 million, for 2004.

The ministry said ExxonMobil had disagreed with the auditors' conclusion.

The ministry said its officials would meet the project operators and the auditors in the near future to discuss the auditors' conclusions and make a final decision.

The auditors for Sakhalin-1 were BKR Interkom-Audit and for Sakhalin-2 were Top-Audit, both private Russian companies.