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2014-08-25 18:20:00



A planned $2bn deal between Rosneft and oil trader Vitol has been shelved, in the latest sign that tougher western sanctions are hampering the Russian state oil group's ambitions.

Vitol, the world's largest independent oil trader, had been in talks for several months to raise about $2bn from US and European banks to make an advance payment to Rosneft in exchange for future oil supplies. The talks were first reported by the FT in March.

However, two people familiar with the matter said that since the last round of sanctions in July the deal had been shelved. One person described the deal as "dead".

Successive rounds of Western sanctions in response to Moscow's failure to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine have triggered a sharp outflow of capital and hurt the already struggling Russian economy.

The failure of the Rosneft-Vitol deal is a sign that July's sanctions, which limit the ability of Rosneft and Novtek, the second largest gas producer, to raise long-term capital, are discouraging western groups from striking new "prepayment" deals. These have become the backbone of Rosneft's financing in the past two years.

One banker said that even though prepayment deals – whose structure involves the banks lending to a special purpose vehicle – would not directly fall foul of US sanctions, banks were fearful of being seen to help Russian companies sidestep them. Vitol and Rosneft declined to comment.

Igor Sechin, Rosneft's powerful chief executive, last week called for Moscow's support to offset the impact of western measures. He wrote to the government suggesting, among other proposals, that the national welfare fund, which supports Russia's pension system, spend Rbs1.5tn ($42bn) to buy Rosneft debt.

Russia's largest oil company has struck a string of prepayment deals with western traders and oil companies including Glencore , Vitol, Trafigura and BP in the past two years. Its aim was to reduce its reliance on external capital markets at the same time as guaranteeing a buyer for its oil.

Svyatoslav Slavinsky, the company's chief financial officer, told the FT last month that prepayment had become "a standard feature" of Rosneft's long-term supply contracts. "It is a strategic feature, it's an innovation," he said.

Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore's chief executive, said on Wednesday that its multibillion-dollar pre-pay financing deal with Rosneft had not been affected by recent EU and US sanctions.

But bankers and traders say that the latest round of US sanctions was likely to discourage Western banks from financing new deals, even if existing ones were unaffected.

Rosneft is highly indebted after spending $55bn to buy TNK-BP last year, with net debt of just under Rbs1.5tn at the end of June, of which Rbs1.1tn must be repaid by the end of next year.

Analysts believe that figure is comfortable given the tens of billions of dollars of advance payments Rosneft is set to receive from China's CNPC under a long-term supply deal. But the company's ambitious raft of projects – including the development of energy resources in the Arctic – may be in jeopardy without access to Western financing and technology.






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