BASF and Gazprom Gas Asset Swap Deal Collapses

Despite assurances by CEO Kurt Bock a month ago that BASF would most likely complete its planned asset swap with Russian gas conglomerate Gazprom this year as planned, the deal has been called off - at least for now.

The German chemical giant did not comment on the failed transaction other than to say that the political situation at the moment is too difficult. It was unclear what role Western sanctions against Russia or that country's threatened financial collapse may have played.

In a press conference held in Moscow on the same day the deal collapse with BASF became public, Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed the sanctions for his country's financial difficulties.

It is also unclear whether the problems would have any repercussions for BASF's recently signed long-term agreement to cooperate with Russia's biggest polyethylene producer, Kazanorgsintez.

"We regret that the asset swap will not be concluded, Bock said in announcing the decision on Dec. 18. "We will continue our cooperation of over 20 years with Gazprom in our existing joint ventures," he said, adding that BASF's oil and gas business strategy remains unchanged.

"We will continue focusing on profitable growth at the source in our targeted oil and gas-rich regions in Europe, North Africa, Russia, South America, and the Middle East," the CEO added.

The German and Russian companies' natural gas trading business will continue to operate as a 50-50 joint venture between Gazprom and BASF group company Wintershall. However, in contrast to the previous plan, group company Wintershall Noordzee will remain a wholly owned by BASF.

Original plans for the swap, announced in 2012, called for two additional blocks of the Achimov formation of the Urengoi natural gas and condensate field in western Siberia to be jointly developed by Gazprom and Wintershall. In return, Wintershall was to transfer its shape in the gas trading and storage business to Its Russian partner.

Gazprom also would have received a 50% share in the activities of Wintershall Noordzee, which is active in the exploration and production of oil and gas in the southern North Sea (Netherlands, UK and Denmark).

Together the activities the BASF group planned to divest would have contributed around €12 billion to sales and about €500 million to group EBITDA in 2013.

The collapse of the gas deal will have negative repercussions for BASF's 2013 as well as its 2014 balance sheet. At the end of 2012, assets and liabilities of the natural gas trading business were treated as a disposal group in the group's financial statements. Under accounting rules it will now be required to discontinue the reporting as a disposal group and book depreciation and the equity result, which had been suspended since 2012.

Due to the changes, BASF will have to book expenses of €113 million in 2013 and €211 million in 2014, and figures for 2013 will have to be restated accordingly. EBIT before special items for 2013 will restated as €7.1 billion rather than the €7.2 billion originally posted.

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