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Paris trip boosts South Stream as Avtovaz proves harder sale

A possible rescue deal for Russian car giant, Avtovaz, was flagged ahead of the Prime Minister's Putin visit to Paris. But following the talks of the Russian-French commission on cooperation the focus shifted to pipes.

While Renault remains reluctant to help with cash or increase its stake in Avtovaz, Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller announced Electricite de France is joining the South Stream pipeline project together with Gazprom and ENI.

“We’ve signed a memorandum on cooperation with Electricite de France. Accordingly our French colleagues will become the minority shareholders of the underwater section of South Stream. EDF will get 10% of the project while the final agreements will be reached together with our third partner ENI. We are planning a 3 party meeting as early as next week.”

France has already confirmed it's participation in Nord Stream. Gazprom's CEO Aleksey Miller says the pipeline has no financial difficulties and that it will supply up to 63 billion cubic metres of gas.

In line with repeated Renault assertions that it wouldn’t be providing further financial support for Avtovaz, Avtovaz shareholders signed an agreement on restructuring, that will see the French company providing technological expertise. The door remains ajar for it possibly increasing its stake down the road but for now it is committing to retaining its 25% stake, according to Prime Minister Putin.

“Renault remains our strategic partner and we’ve agreed its share, which is now about 25% will not decline, or may even be increased. Renault is to provide 300 million Euro which will come in the form of technology transfer, or possibly as direct investment. Avtovaz and Nissan will also start production in Russia’s Far East.”

Both businessmen and officials stress that Renault remains Avtovaz' strategic partner. The final decision on the structure of the shareholders' capital is expected to be taken next March.

Prime Minister Putin said that Russia is satisfied with the agreement reached on Avtovaz, but his disappointment was clear between the lines. Renault will pledge 300 million euros but so far not in cash. It will share technology and know-how, but the burden to reimburse the car-maker's debt and cash needs will remain on the shoulders of the Russian government.