21.05.2013 - More pipelines in Nord Stream project
Gas pipeline firm Nord Stream held an information meeting on the Baltic island of Gotland on Monday the 20th of May to introduce a proposal to extend its controversial gas pipeline project, the Local reports.
Russian company OAO Gazprom is the majority shareholder in Nord Stream, an international consortium formed in 2005 to plan and construct a 1,224-kilometre natural gas pipeline along the Baltic Sea floor.
Now, Nord Stream wants to expand the project by adding one or two more pipelines.
The gas pipelines currently under construction will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany via Sweden. The proposed extension would run from Russia to Germany, passing Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
Monday's meeting in Visby, Gotland was open to the public and is part of a decision-making process where stakeholders have the opportunity to voice opinions. It is a requirement for being allowed to submit a construction application.
"We hope to begin putting the pipes down in 2016," said Nord Stream spokesman Lars O Grönstedt.
The Nord Stream project met with fierce protests when it was launched. According to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011, Vladimir Putin, Russia's president at the time of the project launch, and other power brokers in Russia had no intention of listening to criticisms or protests.
In a report from the US embassy in Moscow, the EU coordinator with Russia's foreign ministry, Dmitri Polyanski, said back in 2007 that the pipeline would be built regardless of noisy protests from Poland, Estonia and Sweden.
"It can't be stopped. Not even by a big EU country like Poland," he said.
Sweden approved the Nord Stream project in November 2009. It was projected to supply 25 million European households with natural gas from Russia.
The most vociferous protests had to do with the project's potential environmental impact on sensitive marine environments along the Baltic Sea floor.
06.04.2013 - Prime Ministers Stoltenberg and Medvedev meet in St.Petersburg
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg says Norway and Russia are continously developing a closer cooperation in important fields, The Norway Post reports.
"We see this in the agreement on the maritime boundary in the Barents Sea, the Norwegian-Russian fisheries collaboration, the energy collaboration, maritime search and rescue routines and early warning routines at possible nuclear emissions in the North”, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said after talks in St. Petersburg Friday with his Russian colleague, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The results of the Norwegian-Russian fisheries collaboration demonstrate that cooperation and proper management may be fruitful, Stoltenberg said.
“This year’s catch quota for cod is historically large - 1 million tons. Fisheries are of major importance to the economy of both countries, in particular as a business for the population up north. The maritime delimitation treaty secures that the good fisheries collaboration between our countries may continue, and also offers new possibilities for economic activities. The activity we have seen so far indicate what we may expect in the future”, Stoltenberg said after the meeting.
In the meeting with Medvedev Stoltenberg also brought up restrictions towards the civil society in Russia.
“I expressed my concern at the restrictions that recently have been imposed on the civil society in Russia. We see that such legal changes have already had their impact on the cooperation between Norwegian and Russian voluntary organisations”, said Stoltenberg.
“I also discussed the serious situation in the Korean Peninsula with Medvedev. We are both concerned for the situation and the possible consequences for regional stability and security in East Asia. Russia has played an important role as participant in the Six-Party Talks on North Korea. In the recent time the rhetoric has become sharper. It is now vital to avoid an escalation. North Korea has the main responsibility to lower the conflict level and return to the negotiation table”, said Stoltenberg.
Friday's meeting between Medvedev and Stoltenberg took place after the Environmental Protection Conference in St. Petersburg. Russia presently holds the presidency of the Baltic Sea Council. The conference is a follow-up of a Finnish 2010 call for a summit to look into what can be done to improve the environmental conditions of the Baltic Sea.
Tele2 to sell its subsidiary in Russia
Swedish telecoms operator Tele2 on Thursday announced it had agreed to sell its Russian subsidiary to Russian state bank VTB, but competitors said they could make a better offer, The Local informs.
Tele2 said earlier it has agreed to sell Tele2 Russia, Russia's fourth mobile operator, to VTB in a cash transaction comprising $2.4 billion in equity value and $1.1 billion in net debt.
It said the sale of Tele2 Russia is expected to close shortly but the Alfa group of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman immediately contested the terms.
Alfa said that the price being paid by VTB did not correspond to the interests of minority shareholders and said it was ready to make an offer of $3.6-4.0 billion in cash.
It said its offer had been rejected without reason by investment bank Morgan Stanley, which was charged with finding a buyer, and threatened to take the matter to court.
Hours later, Russian telecoms operators MTS and Vimpelcom said they were ready to offer $4.0-4.25 billion for the company and expressed fury that they had not been invited to discussions over the acquisition.
Tele2 boasts 23 million subscribers in Russia but is still number four operator behind MTS, Megafon and Vimpelcom.
Analysts said that VTB was likely planning to purchase Tele2 Russia to sell the unit on to other parties, as it would make little sense for the bank to own a mobile operator.
Renaissance Capital analyst Alexander Kazbegi said in a note to clients that one possibility was that VTB was buying Tele2 Russia on behalf of Russia's state fixed-line phone company Rostelekom.
Rostelekom just appointed a new chief executive while billionaire tycoon Arkady Rotenberg, a judo partner of President Vladimir Putin, has taken a stake of over 10 percent in the state-owned firm.
In a statement released by Tele2, VTB chief executive Andrei Kostin said that the deal agreed was a "good financial investment".
"VTB plans to cooperate with financial and strategic partners in order to further develop its investment," he said.