Gazprom Eases Stance on LNG Monopoly as Putin Urges Competition

OAO Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas export monopoly, conceded some arguments for allowing competition in shipping liquefied natural gas abroad after President Vladimir Putin called for easing.

“Arguments can be found, concerning LNG and the monopoly, on the possibility of preparing a program with Gazprom’s participation,” Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev told reporters today in Moscow.

Putin has told the government to gradually open LNG exports as Russia targets a larger share of growing Asian LNG markets. He presided over China National Petroleum Corp.’s agreement to enter the Yamal LNG project, led by Russia’s second largest gas producer Novatek, and buy the fuel, at an investment forum in St. Petersburg on June 21.

Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer, is coming under increasing pressure as Novatek and state-run OAO Rosneft, the world’s biggest publicly traded oil producer by volume, plan to ramp up natural gas output and develop LNG production.

It may be the first time Gazprom has publicly acknowledged the idea, Alexander Kornilov, an oil and gas analyst at Alfa Bank, said by e-mail today. Gazprom “didn’t support this idea” previously, he said.

Gazprom opposes any liberalization in pipeline exports as a risk to Russia and the company itself, Medvedev said. The company, which owns the national pipeline network, forecast its European exports will rise to 160 billion cubic meters in 2013 after a 10 percent increase in the first half from the same period last year, CEO Alexey Miller

Gazprom controls Russia’s only LNG plant on Sakhalin Island, north of Japan. Rosneft is looking at building a facility in that region, while Novatek’s project is in the northern Yamal region.

Gazprom shares fell 0.4 percent to 107.36 rubles by 3:31 p.m. in Moscow, after dropping as low as 106.60 rubles, the weakest on a closing basis since January 2009. Novatek gained 0.9 percent to 348 rubles.

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