Back in March of this year, I wrote about the high levels of debt held by Russia’s flagship oil and gas companies, particularly Gazprom and Rosneft, and the trouble they may face in getting it refinanced by the western financial institutions who lend them the money.
Now, via Upstream Online, it appears their problem has become critical:
The Kremlin is set to channel $50 billion from its foreign exchange reserves toward helping companies – including a number of Russia’s upstream giants – refinance foreign debts, as the global financial crisis makes it almost impossible to raise new loans abroad.
Russian companies borrowed extensively during Russia’s 10-year economic boom to expand and make acquisitions and now have to repay or refinance $120 billion before the end of next year.
Yesterday, a report in financial daily Kommersant said the government would lend $9 billion to four companies, including $4.2 billion to state-run Rosneft, $1 billion to Gazprom, $2 billion to Lukoil and $1.8 billion to TNK-BP.
Despite the state aid, it looks as though Russian companies are going to have to find a lot of refinanced money from somewhere whilst their share prices are falling through the floor and the western financial institutions are barely keeping their own heads above water. There is a good chance that this $50bn loan – about 10% of Russia’s foreign currency reserves – may not be the last such loan required, and is certain to cause uncertainty as to who will fund Russia’s $2.6 trillion offshore development plans at a time when the oil price has plummeted almost 50% to a 13-month low.
Perhaps we will see some revising of the development plans over the next year or so.