Exclusive: Rosneft raising money from Swiss trader as debt payment looms

Tue Feb 3, 2015 2:22pm EST
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By Gleb Gorodyankin and Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON (Reuters) - Rosneft is raising money from Swiss trader Trafigura days before it must repay a $7 billion debt and squeezed by sanctions, industry sources said, seeking new options after a foray into the bond market fueled a devaluation of the rouble.

The Kremlin-controlled firm's ability to raise debt has been severely reduced by sanctions imposed by Western powers which condemn Russia's annexation of Crimea and accuse it of orchestrating a rebellion in eastern Ukraine - a charge denied by Moscow.

The squeeze has been compounded by a collapse in oil prices and the rapid devaluation of the rouble - a crisis the central bank said Rosneft contributed to when it borrowed a large sum through the local bond market in the run-up to the repayment of another $7 billion loan to Western banks in December.

That added to pressure on the Russian currency due to fears the rubles might be used to buy dollars, the central bank governor said, though Rosneft has denied any link between its bond issue and rouble volatility.

Now the Feb. 13 deadline for the repayment of another $7 billion loan to banks is nearing, and Rosneft is exploring alternative options including short-term financing, according to trading and oil industry sources.

Sanctions ban long-term financing of Rosneft - a measure that has prompted all Western companies to pull out of any such deals with the oil major - but allow short-term financing for a period of up to 30 days.

Under an existing five-year financing agreement with Trafigura which began in mid-2013, Rosneft sells 150,000-200,000 metric tons of oil a month to the trader - a deal which is allowed to continue because it was struck before sanctions were imposed.

Now Rosneft has committed to sell around 500,000 tonnes of oil to the Swiss trading house in February to raise money to help repay its debt, three trading sources told Reuters.   Continued...

The logo of Russia's top crude producer Rosneft is seen on a gasoline station in Moscow, October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov