Big Oil saving Putin top investor show again

Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:00am EDT
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By Dmitry Zhdannikov and Katya Golubkova

MOSCOW/LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the world's most powerful oil executives will attend Russia's top investment show next week, once again helping the organizers shrug off a meager turnout from other leading Western industrialists and bankers.

Many CEOs and chairmen from major U.S. and European firms withdrew from last year's St Petersburg International Economic Forum because of tensions tied to Russia's annexation of Crimea and a separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

The political environment has calmed and a shaky ceasefire holds in Ukraine, but Western sanctions remain in place and most Western business chiefs have again decided to skip what used to be a key event in the international corporate calendar.

However, for the second year running, oil executives are showing up regardless, with the heads of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total flying into the home town of President Vladimir Putin.

BP's review of world energy supplies, published this month, estimated that Russian oil and gas reserves had jumped above 100 billion barrels for the first time, climbing to some 103 billion from 93 billion in the last review in 2013. This put it sixth in the global reserves league table.

Such an abundance makes it economically vital for major energy firms to maintain healthy ties with Moscow.

"Uncertainty is the rule of the game in this industry," the head of France's Total Patrick Pouyanne said this month. "We are in the long-term business. This is why at Total we are keen to maintain our commitment to Russia."

Pouyanne and BP's boss Bob Dudley will be speaking at a panel with Putin's energy tsar, the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin. Shell's CEO Ben Van Beurden will share the stage on Thursday with the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller.   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he leaves at the end of a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the end of a meeting in Milan, northern Italy, June 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo