Russia's Biggest Oil Company Needs a $40 Billion Favor

Rosneft is $44.5 billion in debut but Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is stepping up for the rescue.

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In August, state-controlled Russian oil giant Rosneft asked the mother ship for debt relief. Rosneft is a whooping $44.5 billion in debt, linked to the pricey 2013 acquisition of TNK-BP. At the time of the purchase, Bloomberg reported that the $55 billion purchase would solidify Rosneft as the world's largest public oil producer (by output.) Now, this same purchase, along with the political turmoil in the region, has left the mega oil company in mega debt.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev expects Rosneft to receive about $40.6 billion in debt relief over time, the complete amount that CEO Igor Sechin requested from the National Wealth Fund in August. Typically, the National Wealth Fund handles the financing of state pensions.

"This figure only looks imposing, but everything doesn't have to be done in one year. I recently held a meeting on Rosneft’s investment program: the company needs to maintain its production levels, because Rosneft is a major source of tax revenue," Medvedev said. "As such, we should help it maintain its level of investment. We are now considering specific variables and types of support."

In addition to the debt caused by the TNK-BP acquisition, Rosneft has suffered from sanctions placed on Russia as a result of the situation in Ukraine. While natural gas remains untouched, Rosneft has been sanctioned in a variety of ways: imports of technology necessary for oil production, asset freezes of officials, visa bans, and restrictions on financing.

Though increased sanctions have affected the company negatively, we shouldn't expect to see their debt explode because of them. Rosneft's potentially $900 billion Arctic drilling deal with United States oil company ExxonMobil remains on track. As of late July, Rosneft chairman Alexander Nekipelov noted that "Exxon relations with Rosneft are a deep cooperation designed for decades...As far as we know, Exxon does not have plans to stop cooperation with Rosneft, and we hope the situation will not go that far." Even if things change with Exxon, Russian has discussed a potential drilling deal with Cuba, expected to bring in as many as 20 billion barrels of oil.

For now, Rosneft is set to pay off $12 billion before the start of 2015.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.