Rosneft seeks Venezuelan assets in Germany-sources

MOSCOW, April 1 (Reuters) – Russian oil major Rosneft (ROSN.MM) is seeking to buy stakes in four German refineries from Venezuela as part of a Kremlin drive to encourage its firms to own assets all over the world, industry sources told Reuters.

The deal, in which Rosneft could buy Venezuelan state firm PDVSA’s 50 percent stake in the Ruhr Oil refinery venture with BP (BP.L), may be discussed on the fringes of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to Venezuela on Friday. [ID:nLDE62U1QC]

The bid comes as Rosneft, alongside other Russian firms, is preparing to pay Venezuela $600 million in bonuses and invest a further $10-$20 billion over the next few decades to help the country develop its giant Orinoco oil province.

“It would make sense to do it as a big, package deal,” one industry source told Reuters, referring to a growing number of energy and arms deals between Moscow and Caracas.

Rosneft, BP and Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment. PDVSA was not immediately available for comment.

PDVSA says Ruhr Oil is the biggest company refining oil products in Germany, with daily capacity of 1 million barrels, of which around 250,000 bpd belong to PDVSA. Rosneft has seven plants in Russia with total capacity of around 1 million bpd.

Rosneft would not be the first Russian firm to attempt to persuade PDVSA to sell the assets, located thousands of miles from its oil production units.

Earlier this decade BP’s Russian venture, TNK-BP, expressed interest in buying the assets, known as Ruhr Oil — a 50/50 venture between BP and PDVSA, which has interests in four German refineries, Gelsenkirchen, Miro, Bayern Oil and Schwedt.

But BP, which has the first right of refusal on the assets, at that time did not welcome the idea, which would make its four Russia-connected billionaire partners in TNK-BP co-owners of assets in Germany, industry sources said at the time.

“TNK-BP had estimated the value of a 50 percent stake in Ruhr Oil at approximately $1 billion prior to the crisis,” an investment banking source told Reuters.

BP and Rosneft, already partners in a number of oil exploration projects on Russia’s eastern island of Sakhalin, have begun preliminary discussions about Ruhr Oil, sources said.

BP has had a bumpy experience in Russia, as it was forced to surrender management control in TNK-BP to its billionaire partners after months of corporate wars.

The venture is now trying to secure recompense from the Russian state for the likely loss of its licence for the giant Kovykta gas field in eastern Siberia, which Russian authorities have long threatened to withdraw.