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VEB Holds Talks on Buying E.ON’s Stake in Gazprom

VEB, Russia’s development bank, is in discussions about buying E.ON AG’s $4.7 billion stake in OAO Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer.

Ekaterina Karasina, a VEB spokeswoman, confirmed talks by telephone from Moscow today and declined to elaborate. E.ON spokesman Carsten Thomsen-Bendixen declined by telephone to comment.

The potential sale of E.ON’s 3.5 percent stake in Gazprom won’t affect the “strategic quality” of their relationship, Klaus Mangold, the head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, a German lobby group, said after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Nov. 26.

E.ON’s Ruhrgas unit reduced its stake from 6.5 percent last year in exchange for a stake of 25 percent minus three shares in a Gazprom unit developing the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in western Siberia last year. E.ON Chief Executive Officer Johannes Teyssen said Nov. 10 that the stake in Gazprom itself is a “non-strategic asset.”

The prospect of VEB buying EON’s stake in Gazprom at market price is “slightly negative” for the ruble and is contributing

to the currency’s stagnation against the central bank’s target dollar-euro basket today, said Denis Korshilov, head of foreign-exchange trading in Moscow at Citigroup Inc. Any acquisition would require VEB to source foreign currency, suppressing the ruble, Korshilov said by e-mail.

Gazprom shares rose as much as 2.1 percent, the biggest intraday gain in three weeks, and traded up 2 percent at 177.90 rubles at 2:15 p.m., giving the Russian export monopoly a market value of $133 billion.

E.ON aims to raise 15 billion euros ($19.6 billion) in asset sales by the end of 2013. Houston-based ConocoPhillips has sold most of the 20 percent stake it held in OAO Lukoil, Russia’s second largest oil producer, as it seeks to raise money to repay debt and buy back shares.

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