(Reuters) - Italy’s Eni SpA is spearheading a European consortium to finance the supply of gas needed to ensure transit of Russian gas to Europe ahead of an expected resolution of the gas dispute between Ukraine and Russia in the next few days.
Eni is Europe’s biggest natural gas distributor and seen as seen as the clear choice to lead the consortium, given also the close personal relations between Italian and Russian prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin.
Putin is scheduled to meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Saturday to seek a solution.
Here are some facts on the consortium and on Eni:
* Eni Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni said the consortium, which should include EON Ruhrgas, France’s GDF Suez, and Austria’s OMV, would take shape on Friday.
* Alexander Medvedev, deputy head of Gazprom, said Dutch gas trading company GasTerra BV and German-Russian trade joint venture Wingas, part of the BASF group, have been invited to join.
* Scaroni said the “technical gas” would comprise 140 million cubic metres (mcm) to restore pressure to the pipeline and 20 mcm per day of gas to fuel the pumping stations.
* He said a total amount of around 1,500 mcm was realistic.
* Medvedev said Gazprom would sell the gas to the consortium at “prevailing market prices” of around $450 for 1,000 cubic meters.
* That would value the gas at about $675 million.
* Putin said Russia intended to share risks and invest money in the consortium and supply the technical gas.
* Twenty-seven percent of Eni’s gas comes from Russia.
* Eni owns 89 percent of the TAG pipeline that transports gas from Russia to Europe. The rest is owned by OMV.
* Eni, which is 30 percent controlled by the state, has tight relations with Gazprom. It includes a three-way agreement also involving Italian power company Enel SpA.
* Eni has plans to build the South Stream gas pipeline to carry Russian gas directly to Europe across the Black Sea.
* “Long-term this could be positive for all sides given Eni’s gas experience and market knowledge,” ING analyst Jason Kenney said.
* Another analyst said the move could consolidate relations between Gazprom and Eni. They include upcoming asset swaps between Eni and Gazprom, a possible Gazprom entry into Eni’s power-generating unit, and a Gazprom option to buy Eni’s 20 percent in oil subsidiary Gazprom Neft.
Reporting by Stephen Jewkes