TOTAL IN RUSSIA: THE LARGEST
FT - French oil and gas company Total has underscored its commitment to Russia despite fears over international sanctions and geopolitical pressures that have provoked a steady retreat by other foreign energy majors.
As some international energy rivals have reduced their exposure to Russia or withdrawn altogether, Total has emerged as one of the most prominent foreign players in the country's vast but highly political hydrocarbon industry.
"Total has great ambition in this country, we want to be the largest foreign oil and gas player here," the company's chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said on Monday at the launch of a factory outside Moscow.
"And to do that we need a local plant," he said. "This is a real adventure for Total in Russia."
Total's biggest exposure to Russia is its 19.4 per cent stake in Novatek, the country's second largest gas producer. Novatek is sanctioned by the US in response to Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The French group also owns 20 per cent of Yamal LNG, a $27bn liquefied natural gas project in the Arctic run by Novatek, and this summer said it would buy a 10 per cent stake in the company's new Arctic LNG 2 project.
Draft bills in the US Congress calling for new sanctions against Russia in response to the country's alleged meddling in the 2016 US election call for deeper and broader restrictions on co-operation with the country's oil and gas producers.
"We do our best for each country in which we are investing," Mr Pouyanné said. "We have had a huge success in Yamal. Nobody was believing in the project, and now it is a great success."
"It is a question of global risk management, but today our two largest countries for investment are Russia and the US."
While US and EU sanctions were designed to cut off Russia's lucrative oil and gas industry from western finance and technology, the restrictions do not affect large parts of the sector. At the same time, some European measures are less stringent than American curbs.
Other foreign interests include BP's 19.75 per cent stake in Kremlin-controlled Rosneft, the country's largest oil producer, while ExxonMobil and Shell have investments in oil and gas projects in Sakhalin.
Total's newest investment in Russia, a $50m factory producing lubricants, was praised on Monday by President Vladimir Putin as an example of how the country was still attractive for foreign investors.
"It is good to capitalise on our reputation in the country in order to grow the business," Mr Pouyanné said.
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