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Shtokman Continues Operations Before Shareholder Decision

Shtokman Development AG, a OAO Gazprom-led operating company behind a natural-gas project in the Barents Sea, is functioning as normal while awaiting decisions on the fate of the Arctic field later this week.

“There is no liquidation, the company continues operations,” Sergei Vykhukholev, a spokesman for the Zug, Switzerland-based venture, said by phone from Moscow today, responding to a report in Vedomosti that said Gazprom dismissed the entire staff of Shtokman. “Let’s wait for decisions that shareholders are to make in St. Petersburg.”

Gazprom, Norway’s Statoil ASA and France’s Total SA have repeatedly delayed the project after the shale-gas boom in the U.S. forced them to reconsider the markets, while technological challenges and costs led to years of debates on how to proceed.

Gazprom, Russia’s natural-gas exporter, may add partners to the Arctic project and seek to focus on producing liquefied natural gas for shipment by tanker instead of a previously favored split between pipeline gas and LNG.

The partners may agree on new terms for Shtokman at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which starts on June 21, Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller said last month.

Shtokman Development is 51 percent owned by Gazprom, while Total owns 25 percent and Statoil has 24 percent. The shareholder agreement expires on July 1.

Vykhukholev declined to say if there will be changes in staffing when the project is started afresh after new accords.

“The dismissal of Shtokman’s staff seems a worrying sign,” Maria Yegikyan, an analyst at Alfa Bank, said in a note today. “However, their dismissal could be due to some logistical issues being resolved by the company.”

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