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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 21:56 GMT
Hopes grow for Gazprom share deal
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller
Gazprom's bargaining power has increased, commentators say
Russian MPs have reached an agreement over relaxing the rules on foreign ownership of shares in gas and oil giant Gazprom, reports say.

"There is full agreement with the deputies. The bill is ready," the Interfax news agency quoted trade minister German Gref as saying.

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

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

The Russian state owns just over 50% of Gazprom, which is a major contributor to the Russian budget.

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

Last week, the company announced a rise in net profits by 23% to 133.56 billion roubles ($4.6bn; 2.6bn) in the nine months to the end of September on the back of soaring global energy prices.

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

Russian MPs to probe Gazprom plan
15 Nov 05 |  Business
Gazprom board seals Sibneft deal
17 Oct 05 |  Business
Gazprom opens doors to foreigners
24 Jun 05 |  Business
Russia to buy control of Gazprom
17 May 05 |  Business

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