For an industry that is supposed to be struggling to find cash and partners due to crippling western sanctions, Russia’s energy sector is showing few signs of feeling abandoned.
Six years after Rosneft marked a new high watermark in US-Russian corporate relations by agreeing a co-operation deal with ExxonMobil, the Kremlin-controlled oil company has found alternate support from the east. CEFC China Energy agreed last month to pay $9.1bn for a 14.16 per cent stake in Rosneft — and it is not the only Russian company to find new friends in China.
6年前，俄罗斯石油公司(Rosneft)与埃克森美孚(ExxonMobil)达成一项合作协议，曾把美俄企业合作推到一个新高度。如今，这家俄罗斯政府控制的石油公司已在东方找到了替代性的支持。不久前，中国华信能源(CEFC China Energy,简称“华信”)同意支付91亿美元，收购俄罗斯石油公司14.16%的股权。俄罗斯石油公司并非第一家在中国找到新朋友的俄罗斯公司。
Chinese companies are snapping up stakes and signing joint venture agreements across Russia’s energy sector. And they have competition — Saudi Arabia’s new-found political friendship with Russia has started yielding corporate agreements, too.
Hit by US and EU sanctions after its 2014 invasion of Crimea, Moscow has turned to Beijing for friendship and finance. Assistance was both necessary and geopolitically expedient: New York and London are not the only places with banks, went the message. Then when oil prices fell to historic lows two years later, cutting a deal with Saudi — the world’s other crude-exporting superpower — to reduce production helped reverse the slide and ease struggling fiscal budget calculations.
But while sanctions may have prompted the agreements, business realities help explain Chinese and Saudi corporate partnerships. For Chinese energy companies, Russia offers both vast resource supply and handy proximity. For Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s state-owned hydrocarbon giant, Russia offers potential partners struggling with the same existential business quandaries — how to extract more for less, and tackle the threat of alternative energy sources.
China needs energy and power to fuel its growth, and shares a 4,200km border with Russia. For the Russians, having a major customer in the east makes good business sense: oil and gas from fields in the far east would need to be pumped across as many as 11 time zones and 7,000km worth of frozen tundra, forests and mountains to reach Europe. China is next door and, as a bonus, has cash to invest in capex-heavy drilling projects.
Over the past 18 months, Chinese companies have spent more than $14bn on Russian energy projects. China now owns stakes in Russia’s largest oil company, petrochemical group and gold producer. By next month, CEFC will add a $500m investment in energy-to-aluminium business EN+ as part of the company’s $1.5bn listing in the London. “The Chinese think long-term, they think very strategically,” said a person involved in one of the investments. “They want access to the resources, but they are also thinking about partnerships that will last decades.”
In Riyadh, energy executives share the same fears as their opposite numbers in Moscow. A future world of $50-a-barrel crude prices means drilling, pumping and refining must become more efficient and less expensive. It is no surprise that one of dozens of corporate agreements signed during King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s state visit to Moscow last week was for Aramco and Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Moscow-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom, to collaborate on research and development.
在利雅得，能源公司高官们有着跟莫斯科同行们相同的担心。原油价格为每桶50美元的未来世界，意味着钻井、泵送和精炼必须提高效率，降低成本。难怪在上周沙特国王萨勒曼?本?阿卜杜勒-阿齐兹(Salman bin Abdulaziz)对俄罗斯进行国事访问期间签订的数十份公司协议之中，有一份是沙特阿美与国有天然气垄断企业俄罗斯天然气工业股份公司(Gazprom)的石油业务子公司Gazprom Neft达成的研发合作协议。
“This is just the beginning,” said Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. “We are [in Russia] to meet people, to shake hands, to find all the ways in which companies from our two countries can work together,” he said. “There is vast potential.”
Three years ago, western sanctions imperilled the Arctic LNG project in Russia’s northern Yamal peninsula owned by Russia’s Novatek and France’s Total. Chinese finance came to the rescue with a $12bn package. Today, Russian officials are keen for Saudi companies to play their part in a second iteration of the project, Nord Stream 2. The gas pipeline to Europe is being built by Gazprom, but five EU energy companies have agreed to finance half of its cost.
三年前，西方制裁殃及由俄罗斯诺瓦泰克(Novatek)和法国道达尔(Total)共同拥有的、位于俄罗斯北部亚马尔(Yamal)半岛的北极液化天然气(LNG)项目。中国提供的120亿美元一揽子融资拯救了该项目。如今，俄罗斯官员很希望沙特企业参与北溪-2(Nord Stream 2)项目。目前，Gazprom正在修建这条通往欧洲的天然气管道，但五家欧盟能源企业已同意承担项目总成本的一半。
Gazprom appears unflustered by the prospect. “In addition to Europe, the Asia-Pacific Region also exists, and certain funds can be borrowed from there,” said chairman Viktor Zubkov last month. US and European energy companies have long been Russia’s go-to partners and financiers for major energy projects. But that relationship may well be coming to an end.