Abramovich sells his last big stake in oil to Kremlin

Russian state gas giant Gazprom is paying $13 billion to take over oil firm Sibneft from Roman Abramovich 38, its majority shareholder, who spends much of his time in London where he watches another of his prize possessions Chelsea soccer club.

"Everything his hands touch turns into crisp notes," Forbes magazine wrote prophetically earlier this year, when it already put his wealth at $14.7 billion.

The takeover, the biggest in Russian history, follows a heady period of energy musical chairs, which also saw state oil firm Rosneft win the choice unit of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's YUKOS after it was auctioned off to pay punitive back taxes.

“Mr Abramovich is getting enough money to keep 15 generations of Abramoviches,” said Sovlink analyst Eric Kraus.

As well as all the money, the deal also puts Abramovich in the good books of a Kremlin, which is keen to build Gazprom into a global energy giant.

Abramovich's world of yachts, helicopters and multi-million pound soccer signings provides a stark contrast to that of fellow youthful oligarch Khodorkovsky, in prison convicted of fraud and tax evasion after a trial seen by many as politically motivated, reports Reuters.

Gazprom didn't give details of how it is funding the purchase in the statement. Spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said the company will be borrowing money, declining to be more specific.

Putin is tightening his grip on the energy industry and creating government-run companies big enough to compete with Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Buying Sibneft will more than quadruple Gazprom's crude oil output to 1.17 million barrels a day. The Kremlin controls another 1.5 million barrels a day through state-owned OAO Rosneft. Combined, that's more oil than Kuwait sells.

“A final decision on Sibneft will almost certainly trigger the endgame for Yukos,” Alfa Bank's Weafer said, informs Bloomberg.


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