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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Oil Pushes LUKoil, Rosneft Down, Banks Up

VedomostiVozrozhdeniye, up 4.8 percent, was one of the banks that benefited Tuesday.
As a tamer-than-expected Hurricane Gustav left U.S. oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico unharmed, crude oil prices dropped to their lowest level in five months and hit the stock price of Russian energy giants, such as Rosneft and LUKoil.

Rosneft shares fell by 1.4 percent on the ruble-denominated MICEX Index, and LUKoil shares fell by 2.8 percent.

Lower oil prices also buoyed Russia's bank stocks, which had been battling high inflation rates since June. Sberbank shares jumped by almost 5 percent on the MICEX, and VTB Group and Vozrozhdeniye rose by 3.5 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.

The falls in LUKoil and Rosneft shares came the same day that the Energy Ministry reported lower-than-expected oil output for August and Citigroup cut its price estimate for LUKoil stock.

According to the Energy Ministry, Russian oil production has decreased to 9.82 million barrels per day, a 0.9 percent drop in less than a year.

Citigroup cited decreased production output in western Siberia, along with higher capital expenditure costs, as reason for slashing its price estimates for LUKoil by 26 percent.

Western Siberia, the backbone of Russia's oil and gas industry, is responsible for 67 percent of its crude output.

Citibank reported that Russia's upstream capital expenditure grew by 120 percent from 2005 through 2007, because of the higher capital expenditures required to maintain production at aging western Siberian fields and high construction costs in new oil-producing regions. According to the note, construction accounted for 49 percent of all upstream capital expenditure growth.

Citibank noted that LUKoil raised capital expenditure costs significantly to maintain western Siberian production levels.

"LUKoil has remained the most aggressive in upstream [capital expenditure] in the sector since 2005," Citibank analyst Alexander Korneyev wrote in the report. "The company finished 2007, with upstream spending at a level of close to that of an average global major of $10.5 per barrel."

In contrast to Citibank, Renaissance Capital raised its price estimate on Russia oil and gas companies by an average of 7 percent Monday. In a note to investors the same day, the bank rated Rosneft and LUKoil as "buys," citing crude oil prices.

Viktor Mishnyakov, an oil analyst at UralSib, said the movement of Russian oil stocks was almost entirely determined by the price of crude oil. "The correlation of earnings to oil prices for these two companies is huge," he said.

In the probable volatility of the coming weeks, investors should look at how various oil companies are equipped to defend their profits against extreme swings in the oil price, Mishnyakov said, adding that a strong retail operation was key to stability.