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Rosneft Board Approves Stock Issue, Borrowing

The board of Rosneft, which is preparing one of the biggest-ever initial public offerings of shares, has approved a new issue of stock in Russia, the firm said in a statement Friday.

Rosneft is considering placing shares in London and Tokyo as well as Moscow in October or November and hopes to raise up to $20 billion by selling a minority stake in the firm.

The state oil firm said its board of directors also approved the prospectus for the share issue, which it said had been sent to the market regulator for approval.

The country's privatization body, the Federal Property Management Agency, has given a preliminary valuation of up to $58 billion for Rosneft.

The government is also considering selling a stake to a strategic investor such as a Chinese or Indian company, but at least half of Rosneft will remain in the Kremlin's hands.

Rosneft's statement also said it would set up an office in Beijing but gave no details. Rosneft is planning to set up a joint venture with a Chinese company to market its oil products in China's fast-growing economy.

The statement said the board had also approved borrowing $480 million from the two biggest state banks -- $280 million from Sberbank and $200 million from Vneshtorgbank.

Rosneft owes $475 million overdue debt to a Western banking consortium, which formally called in the loan last year, putting the Russian oil company in a technical cross-default.

Banks are seeking the outstanding portion of a $1 billion syndicated loan that was extended to fallen oil firm Yukos in 2003 by a consortium including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale. The loan was secured against Yukos production subsidiaries including Yugansk, which was seized by the government in December 2004 to recover some of the back taxes it claimed Yukos owed, and later sold to Rosneft.

(The Moscow Times 20.ii.06)

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