Rosneft’s acquisition of TNK-BP undermines economic foundations of the Putin regime
State controlled Rosneft acquires TNK-BP, a joint venture between a group of Russian oligarchs and BP. The newly formed company will become the largest publicly traded oil producer, controlling up to 50% of the Russian crude oil output.
The major cause of the Soviet Union collapse was the central planning system’s failure to meet even the basics needs of the country’s population. In contrast, the Putin extraordinary popularity rests on the rapid economic growth of 1999-2007, resulted from the market reforms and privatization of 90s.
Now the Putin team destroys the foundations of his regime. The de-facto nationalization and monopolization of the energy sector has already cost a lot to the Russian economy. The country’s oil industry rapid rise stumbled after the de-facto nationalization of YUKOS, once Russia’s biggest and most efficient oil company. During the last ten years state-controlled Gazprom, which has an exclusive access to the world-largest natural gas reserves, has failed to develop any new large natural gas field and faced a decrease in production.
Even if they act in the best public interest, government officials have neither instruments nor proper motivation for supervising the sophisticated corporate structures. As a result, the huge cash flows of state-controlled companies become an easy prey for managers and insiders. They make fortunes on generous contracts and illogical M&A activities of such companies as Russian Railways, Transneft, VTB, Gazprom, Rosneft and many others.
When there is little room for further oil price increases, the production growth is an obvious way to sustain the country’s economic development. The energy sector opening to the international majors and private initiative would have brought new tax revenues and prolonged the Putin team dominant position in the Russian economy and politics. However, it looks like the opportunity to get access to the TNK-BP’s multi-billion cash flows outweighs all rational arguments for a new policy in the energy sector.