Monday, 10 December 2007

Medvedev’s posse or Team Putin: which is real?

Commenting on a recent post of mine, Archie asks why I am besotted with the Team Putin concept. Why not the idea of ‘new President, new power elite’? Well today, on the news that 1st Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev (Chairman, also, of Gazprom) is to be Anointed by His Hand, and succeed to the Federal Presidency, it seems a good moment to suggest an answer to that question.

‘Team Putin’ I think explains why VVP is giving up the Presidency, and wanted United Russia so badly to have such a big majority in the new Duma (with him as its Godfather); and someone who has always been pretty obedient - Presidential-nominee Dmitri Medvedev, for instance - as successor President. It is worth recalling that in 2005 Medvedev was trying to force the merger of his Gazprom with Sergei Bogdanchikov's Rosneft. He didn’t get his way and quite meekly accepted Sechin / Bogdanchikov’s thwarting Gazprom’s ‘mega-oil’ ambitions so that Rosneft, and not Gazprom, feasted on the lucrative carrion that was Yukos.

I think it may be time now to go back to that old idea of Gazprom merging with Rosneft - creating the world's most powerful energy company - with VVP as its Chairman. Put Rosneft and Gazprom together and you create a Mega-Oil & gas firm whose reserves are so vast, the mere Big Oil firms (ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Total) look puny in comparison. So vast that you’d league table Gazprom-Rosneft like a country…like Saudi Arabia... A business truly worthy of VVP's retirement.

Ironically this will have achieved, through Gazprom and with VVP at its head, *exactly* what Mikhail Khodorkovsky was trying to do, with Yukos wealth. Except this time it will be the nationalization of democracy, consistent with what I mentioned here, rather than the privatization of the constitution as an oligarchs’ plaything.

This would explain recent Rosneft machinations very easily. Not, though, Bogdanchikov being pushed out (as CEO) and Igor Sechin in, as I wrote last week. But Bogdanchikov - whom you will recall personally, fiercely opposed the original deal to merge with Gazprom - sacrificed to allow Sechin in – not as a real CEO – but just to ensure a giant merger deal with Gazprom passes through; a last act on behalf of the boss he has so loyally served, VVP.

Needless to say, these are both publicly traded companies - well, yes I concede the market's reaction will be interesting - but damn if that wouldn't make Rosneft stock look a steal right now...

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