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Russia bank may help Ukraine with $4 bln gas loan

Ukraine’s state firm Naftogaz could secure up to $4 billion in financing with the help of Russian investment bank Troika to ensure payment for gas imports from Moscow, the Internet site Ukrainska Pravda reported Monday.

A banking source later told Reuters that Troika was only large enough to serve as a conduit for the funds, which could ultimately come from Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom.

Naftogaz, which must pay for gas imports by the seventh day of the month following purchases, offered no comment on the report, based on what the authoritative Internet news service said was a fax of a draft contract between the companies.

“But Troika is definitely just a pass-through structure… Gazprom’s structures are the ones most likely to provide the financing,” an investment banking source said.

Naftogaz said later Monday that it had paid in full for June imports of Russian gas.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko last month said Ukraine planned to import about 1.1 billion cubic metres of gas in June valued at about $300 million.

Tymoshenko had earlier insisted that Ukraine would not miss the July 7 payment deadline for gas consumed in June.

“I am constantly surprised at how Ukrainian politicians keep insisting that Ukraine cannot pay for its gas. Every time we get to the seventh of the month, they start shouting hysterically that Ukraine cannot make its payments.

“As long as I am prime minister, Ukraine will make payment on time for its gas from Russia. And that will be the case this month. We will allow no disruptions from the Ukrainian side,” the government news service quoted her as saying.

Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky said Monday the company planned a steep increase in imports of gas from Gazprom in the third quarter to ensure underground storage areas were filled ahead of winter.

Under the deal published by Ukrainska Pravda, Troika would organise the necessary financing for Naftogaz by syndicating loans or by organising bond issuance. The deal may be signed later this month, it said.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that Europe could face new supply disruptions if Ukraine fails to find the money to pump Russian gas into storage to ensure smooth winter supplies.

Ukraine has said it needs at least $4 billion in credits to buy Russian gas for storage and hopes to raise the funds through European banks.

Privately-owned Troika, one of the oldest and largest home-grown investment banks in the former Soviet Union, will get a commission on any financing it secures for the Ukrainian firm and will also have access to any the Naftogaz paperwork necessary for the deals.

Two sources close to Troika and Ukrainian officials confirmed talks between the two companies without giving details, Russian business daily Vedomosti reported.



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