LONDON/MOSCOW Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to provide a consortium of Qatar and commodities trader Glencore with sizeable funds to help finance their purchase of a stake in Russian oil company Rosneft, two sources familiar with the transaction said.
Intesa declined to say whether it was helping finance the deal, announced by the Kremlin, which said on Wednesday it had sold a 19.5 percent government stake in Rosneft for 10.5 billion euros ($11.3 billion) to Qatar's sovereign wealth fund and Glencore.
The bank, Italy's biggest retail lender, has deep ties in Russia and advised state-owned Rosneft on the sale of the 19.5 percent stake.
Wednesday's announcement showed the Kremlin can lure big foreign investors to its oil sector despite political risks associated with Russia, which is locked in a stand-off with the West over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
"Russia's upstream is now firmly back on the map as an attractive place to invest despite more than two years of EU/US sanctions," said Michael Moynihan, Research Director for Russia at Wood Mackenzie.
But some Russian financial and industry sources raised questions about the deal. The sale valued Rosneft's assets at considerably less than it paid to acquire similar assets in the past, according to Reuters calculations.
It is also unclear exactly what Glencore's status in the Rosneft ownership structure will be and there are questions about where Rosneft will find the volumes of oil it agreed to sell to Glencore as part of the deal.
Italy has maintained close ties with the Kremlin despite European Union sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.
Glencore stands to benefit from access to additional Rosneft volumes for its trading business and this should help it compete with rival Trafigura, which has been Rosneft's preferred trading partner.
Glencore, whose stock rose 3 percent on Thursday to an 18-month high, said it would finance part of the deal by putting up 300 million euros of its own equity.
It also said that other than its modest equity injection, it would not have any economic exposure to the shares in Rosneft, Russia's top oil producer. It did not say who would have the exposure instead.
VALUE FOR MONEY?
Several oil market participants told Reuters that for Rosneft to provide Glencore with the additional 220,000 barrels a day set out in the deal, it would probably have to reduce volumes going elsewhere.
"Since Glencore has become a shareholder, it will definitely want preferential rights to buying oil and oil products," said a trader on the Russian oil market. "It's very possible Trafigura will have to give up its leading position."
Rosneft declined to comment on the allocation of volumes.
The deal was announced days after Russia and OPEC -- dominated by Saudi Arabia and its allies Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait -- agreed on coordinated output cuts to support oil prices.
Rosneft had been under pressure to secure a sale of the stake to help replenish the state budget, hit by an economic slowdown worsened by the international sanctions.
But this meant selling at a time when, with world oil prices low, the value of oil assets is far below historical levels.
Russia sold its share in Rosneft's oil production for about half the price at which Rosneft has previously acquired domestic oil production assets, according to Reuters calculations based on publicly-available data.
The amount which Qatar and Glencore paid per barrel of production can be earned back by selling that production in about a year, the calculations showed.
When Rosneft bought Russian producer TNK-BP in 2013, it paid a price that would have taken just over two years to earn back, according to the calculations.
"The way it works out is that the state, in the shape of Rosneft, buys expensive assets, and then sells off the combined assets for several times less. It's clear there's a strategic miscalculation," said a source close to the Russian government, on condition of anonymity.
Rosneft declined to comment on the value of the deal.
(Additional reporting by Gleb Gorodyankin and Olga Yagova in MOSCOW, Karin Strohecker in LONDON, Andrea Mandala Silvia Aloisi and Stephen Jewkes in MILAN, Writing by Dmitri Zhdannikov and Christian Lowe, Editing by Timothy Heritage)