Oil majors stump up for 2008 shareholders

Major Russian oil companies will pay a 2008 annual dividend despite the collapse of oil prices and sales towards the end of the year. At shareholder meetings this week, most are also outlining strategic plans.

Despite an uncertain path for prices, Russian oil majors decided to pamper their shareholders. Three oil giants Rosneft, Lukoil and Gazpromneft will increase their dividends for 2008, but Konstantin Yuminov, analyst at RMG Securities, says its for different reasons.

“Gazpromneft needs to compensate its main shareholder, Gazprom, for the purchase of a 20% stake in the company from Italy’s ENI. Rosneft, that held a public IPO, has social obligations to its shareholders. Lukoil always has a good level of corporate governance and worked efficiently last year.”

Their development paths are also different. Surgut focuses on crude oil exports with a very low level of refining. As a young company, Rosneft’s strategy is flexible and largely depends on the government’s will, while Lukoil and Gazpromneft have refining level of around 60% and are keen to boost production.

Gazpromneft’s target is to increase output to 100 million tones per year by 2020, mainly through acquisitions in Russia. In turn Lukoil is cautious of developing new fields in Russia and prefers to look abroad, according to company president, Vagit Alekperov.

“In the first half of 2009 we made 45% of our investment in geological survey in Russia – and 55% abroad. There are risks connected with developing new fields in Russia. We have to hand over newly discovered deposits to the state fund that will decided who will develop the field. That doesn’t stimulate investment. We hope that in the nearest future the government will review this law.”

Lukoil also aims to refine two thirds of its output in seven years. It has recently bought refineries in Sicily and Netherlands and is looking for more.