What Belgrade needs to fulfill for Moscow for Gazpromneft to privatize the Pancevo company connected to the Oil Refinery
The Russian state company Gazpromneft will buy the Pančevo company Petrohemija, although there is no economic interest in that, but in return, Moscow will ask Belgrade for certain concessions, a source close to the Government of Serbia told Danas.
Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Bocan-Kharchenko stated that negotiations are underway on Gazpromneft participating in the privatization of Pancevo-based Petrohemija. On that occasion, Bocan-Kharchenko pointed out that an agreement on that topic could be reached soon, but that at this moment it is difficult to say specifically what kind of agreement can be expected.
Our interlocutor points out that Gazpromneft, the owner of the Oil Industry of Serbia, will participate in the privatization of Petrohemija, even though that company is not engaged in business in the petrochemical industry.
– Moscow will accept that the state company Gazpromneft buys the Pancevo company. In that way, the Russian side is practically doing the Serbian one a favor, because it is difficult to find a buyer for Petrohemija on a market basis. Accordingly, Moscow will, as it always does, ask Serbia for certain concessions. It will most likely be required that in 2024, when the interstate agreement between Serbia and Russia expires, which specifies that, the price of ore rent that NIS pays in our country does not rise, or that the rent is still lower than those paid by other companies. . The current ore rent that the Russians pay in Serbia, as the owners of NIS, amounts to three percent of the income – our interlocutor explains.
According to him, Moscow will demand that Russia remain Serbia’s main partner in the construction of railway infrastructure.
This means that Serbia takes Russian loans for those purposes, and that Russian companies are hired as contractors, which guarantees a lucrative salary.
The decision of Serbia to start the production of the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” at the “Torlak” institute, which in the economic sense corresponds to Moscow, contributed to the Kremlin giving the green light to Gazpromneft to take over Petrohemija.
In support of the thesis that Moscow is not thinking about buying Petrohemija for economic but geostrategic reasons, the fact that Russia is already building large petrochemical complexes on its territory in cooperation with the Chinese, so that from that point of view the plant in Pancevo means almost nothing.
Privatization advisor Branko Pavlović says for Danas that the news about the purchase of Petrohemija is a good thing for Serbia and that Belgrade does not have the possibility to insist on the high price at which Petrohemija will be sold.
– The company is a ballast for the state and Moscow is doing a service to Serbia that Gazpromneft will buy. So there is neither a need nor is it possible for Belgrade to insist on a high selling price. The only thing our side can ask for is to invest in Petrohemija and to modernize the company with an emphasis on environmental protection. Moscow will most likely ask the Government of Serbia to take care of the severance pay of redundant employees. It also pays off for the Government, because the money that would be spent on rehabilitating Petrohemija’s business will now be directed to a rational thing that will enable privatization – Pavlović states.
Gazpromneft certainly has an interest in improving Petrohemija’s business. After the pre-prepared reorganization plan in Petrohemija was announced, the state wrote off part of the creditors’ claims, and in that way NIS became the owner of a total of 21% of the company’s shares. The majority owner of Petrohemija is the state with 76 percent of shares in its hands, while three percent belongs to the Russian oil company Lukoil.
The Pancevo oil refinery, owned by NIS, and Petrohemija are technically connected. Between those two facilities, there is an underground product pipeline which supplies the Petrohemija Oil Refinery with 600,000 tons of primary gasoline, the basic raw material needed for production in that chemical complex.
Petrohemija has been successfully reorganized in the past period, operating positively and providing salaries for about 1,450 employees. The expert public estimates that around 200 million euros need to be invested in the modernization of Petrohemija.
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Source: Dnevni list Danas by www.danas.rs.
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