'Tug-of-war' likely over Gazprom's grip

Feb. 13, 2013 at 6:57 AM

MOSCOW, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Liberalizing a Russian natural gas market keen on tapping into growing Asian markets isn't going to be easy for Moscow, a market analyst said.

An energy commission in Moscow is reviewing a measure that would weaken the grip that Russian energy company Gazprom has on gas exports. That would give rival companies Novatek and Rosneft room to ship liquefied natural gas to foreign markets, such as Asia.

Gazprom in January said it set up a joint venture with independent gas producer Novatek for the production of LNG from the Yamal Peninsula.

Valery Nesterov, an investment analyst at Moscow's Sberbank Investment Research, told Bloomberg News that any moves would spark a "serious tug-of-war" between opponents and supporters of liberalization.

"The issue is not going to be an easy one," he said.

Gazprom in late February marks its 20th anniversary. Nesterov said it would be "politically incorrect" for Moscow to make any decisions on the company's position before then.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov last week told Bloomberg the status quo "is efficient and it meets the state interests."

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