(Adds details on China gas project, background)
MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Russian gas producer Gazprom has borrowed 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) from Bank of China’s London branch, the largest-ever direct loan the company has raised from one lender, it said on Thursday.
The duration of the loan, the first for Gazprom from a Chinese bank, is five years. It did not disclose the purpose.
Gazprom has tried to diversify fund raising by tapping Asian markets as Moscow pivots to the East amid chilling relation with the West over Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
Kremlin-controlled Gazprom signed a deal in 2014 to supply 38 billion cubic metres of gas per year to China later this decade. But the project faces problems, including plunging commodity prices and China’s cooling economy, sources have said.
Capital expenditure for the project is estimated at 168 billion roubles ($2.3 billion) for this year alone. The project cost was initially $55 billion.
Gazprom has previously borrowed in euros. In October, it raised 1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) via a three-year Eurobond.
According to banking sources, Gazprom was also looking at a possible Eurobond issue in Swiss francs after a euro-denominated bond it issued last year attracted strong investor demand.
In its latest financial statement, Gazprom said its long-term debt included 2.19 trillion roubles worth of loans and credit lines with a fixed rate, as of Sept. 30 2015.
Other Russian companies are also turning to China for debt and equity. They include Norilsk Nickel, petrochemical company Sibur, AFK Sistema, state development bank VEB, Megafon and Yamal LNG, run by Novatek. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Susan Thomas)
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