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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 18:38 GMT
Russian MPs to probe Gazprom plan
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller
Gazprom's political clout is growing, commentators believe
Gazprom has insisted that proposals to allow more foreign investment in the Russian energy giant will be agreed by the end of the year.

Russian MPs will discuss plans to scrap the current limit on foreign ownership of Gazprom shares on Wednesday.

Chief executive Alexei Miller said he was confident that the reforms - which require changes to the law - would be approved before the end of the year.

Gazprom chairman Dmitry Medvedev is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Attractive investment

Commentators said President Putin's recent decision to appoint Mr Medvedev deputy premier had strengthened Gazprom's position as it seeks to expand its operations.

Foreign investors are currently limited to owning 20% of Gazprom's freely traded shares.

Gazprom shares have risen 90% over the past six months on expectations that the regulations will be relaxed.

Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas producer, is seen as a highly attractive investment as global demand for gas increases.

Parliamentary scrutiny

The proposed changes will be discussed by a committee of the state Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, on Wednesday.

Legislators are expected to vote on the issue later this month.

Mr Miller said the proposed liberalisation of Gazprom shares was on track despite speculation that it might be delayed until next year.

"All the documents have already been submitted to the government," Mr Miller said.

Separately, Gazprom said its net profits increased 23% to 133.56 billion roubles ($4.6bn; 2.6bn) in the nine months to the end of September.

The firm benefited from soaring energy prices.

The Russian state took full control of Gazprom earlier this year and the firm recently acquired rival Sibneft in a $13bn deal.

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17 Oct 05 |  Business
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