Gazprom plans bigger gas output in 2004

Gazprom is planning to increase its extraction of gas in 2004 by approximately 10-11 billion cubic metres as compared with the planned figures for 2003 (the gas-producing company originally planned to pump 531 billion cubic metres of gas in 2003, later correcting that to 540-541 billion cubic metres--Rosbalt). According to Gazprom's press service, the growth will be achieved on the basis of a plan reviewed Monday at a meeting chaired by Aleksei Miller, the head of the company management. The basic principles that are to govern company operations next year were set at the meeting.

The press service said 2004 would see a continuation and strengthening of efforts to reduce costs and company indebtedness. The meeting considered debt arrangements and a financial plan that will assure a lowering of the costs of servicing Gazprom's portfolio of debt.

Gazprom was formed in 1993 after the restructuring, as a shareholder-owned corporation, of the state gas company, Gazprom, which itself had been organized on the basis of the USSR Gas Ministry. Its original capital was approximately USD 3.9 billion, divided among 23,673,512,900 shares at a nominal valuation of approximately USD .16. The government owns 38.37% of the shares of the company, of which 35% are held by the Property Ministry of the Russian Federation and 3.37% by the Russian Federal Property Fund. Foreign investors hold 11.5% of the company's stock, Strotransgaz holds 5.846% and 44.28% is held by Russian corporate and actual persons. Gas extractions last year as compared with 2001 were up 9.9 billion cubic metres, coming to 521.9 billion cubic metres in all. Gazprom's net profit in 2002 was up 2.2 times as compared with the year before, using international accounting standards, and came to approximately USD 965 million.

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