CEFC China Energy, which has grown from a niche oil trader to a sprawling energy conglomerate, is in talks to acquire a stake in Russian state oil giant Rosneft, Reuters reports, citing three people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
The people said senior executives at both companies were in preliminary discussions, although there have already been two meetings between CEFC chairman Ye Jianmin and Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin since July.
It was not immediately clear how much CEFC would invest in Rosneft, nor if the Chinese group would buy new shares or existing stock in the parent company.
One person familiar with Rosneft said it would be open to selling CEFC a stake in its retail business, which includes almost 3,000 filling stations, around 150 oil storage complexes and over 1,000 gasoline tankers.
Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest oil supplier, and Rosneft is by far Russia’s biggest and most influential oil company, with strong ties to the Kremlin.
Having access to Rosneft’s reserves and refining capacity would boost CEFC’s ambitions to become a major international energy merchant and rival to traders like Glencore.
CEFC, which has a rare contract to store part of China’s strategic oil reserve, has expanded aggressively, hiring officials from state-owned energy firms and acquiring a series of overseas assets since 2015.
The Russian government, through holding company Rosneftegaz, owns 50 percent of Rosneft, after it sold a 19.5 percent stake to Glencore and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) for more than 10 billion euros (US$11.8 billion) in December. It would need to issue a special government decree if it were to lower its holding in Rosneft below 50 percent.
BP owns 19.75 percent of Rosneft.
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