Serbia Wants to Delay Gazprom Sale

Belgrade _ The Serbian government wants to delay the sale of its Naftna Industrija Srbije, NIS, oil industry to Russian gas giant OAO Gazprom until the end of 2009, amid uncertainties over how the buyer plans to provide the €500 million in the overhaul of the company, Belgrade-based Politika daily reported.

Last year Serbia and Russia reached a tentative agreement by which Gazprom’s oil arm, Gazpromneft, will purchase a 51 per cent of stake in the NIS for 400 million euros and invest a additional 500 million euros in it by 2012.

The Serbian negotiators have reportedly asked their Russian counterparts to extend the current November 22 deadline for signing the deal as it remaines unclear whether Gazpromneft will fund the investments through a cash payment or a loan, Politika said.

The report also said that the Russian side preferred that NIS take out a €500 million euros loan which would be supplied with Gazprom’s guarantees.

In July the Serbian government said it wants to renegotiate the sale of NIS, arguing the proposed price of €400 million and an additional €500 million in investment was not sufficient. In August, the Deloitte & Touche auditors said that the total price of Naftna Industrija Srbije is €2.2 billion.

In his September visit to Belgrade, Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s minister for emergency situations and the key negotiator in the sale of NIS, flatly rejected Serbia’s proposal.

In the report, Politika also said that the Serbian negotiating team wants to use the additional time to ask Gazpromneft to take over the HIP Petrohemija petrochemicals producer together with NIS and pay an additional  €200 million for it. The Serbian government owns a 51 per cent stake in the HIP Petrohemija

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