Rosneft acknowledges shortcoming in 2016 stake sale funding

MOSCOW, July 23 (Reuters) - A decision to fund the purchase of a stake in Russian oil major Rosneft via loans from European banks was not effective, Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin said, acknowledging for the first time issues around the financing of the 2016 deal.

At the end of 2016, Qatari sovereign wealth fund QIA and Swiss trader Glencore bought a 19.5 percent stake in Rosneft from the Russian state for 10.2 billion euros. Half of that amount was lent by Italian bank Intesa.

Rosneft was in negotiations with China’s CEFC to take over a part of the stake held Glencore and QIA, but those talks collapsed with no deal. In May this year, QIA changed the terms of its ownership of its stake, acquiring it outright.

Asked about the Qatari decision to take the stake into direct ownership, Sechin said in an interview with Russian broadcaster Rossiya 24 that “it was a positive decision.”

“The thing was that the initial decision to attract credit from European banks is, currently, less effective, and moving to direct ownership will increase effectiveness for the Qatar fund,” Sechin said.

He added that dividends for 2018 are expected to be higher than in 2017. “Expecting that, from the point of view of owning shares, it’s much more effective to receive these dividends yourself than to pay the refinancing rate to banks.”

Sechin did not say in the interview why the bank financing was not effective. Sources told Reuters last year that Intesa has encountered problems syndicating a loan to Glencore and Qatar because of a new wave of U.S. sanctions at the time.

In April, Intesa said its loan to finance the 2016 deal, which matures in December 2021, had to be reimbursed once the CEFC deal is closed. It is not clear what happened with the loan after the CEFC deal fell apart.

In the television interview, Sechin said he did not expect a change in Rosneft shareholding structure in the near future. Rosneftegaz, Russian state energy holding company, owns a little over 50 percent in Rosneft, where BP holds another 19.75 percent. (Reporting by Christian Lowe Writing by Katya Golubkova)