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Rosneft seeks foothold in German fuels market

The Russian state-owned oil company has announced it will spend hundreds of millions of euros in modernizing its refining capacities in Germany under plans to become a major player in the country's fuels market.

Opening Rosneft's new Germany headquarters in Berlin on Thursday, the Russian oil major's chief executive Igor Sechin unveiled investments of about 600 million euros ($668 million) in Germany.

The financing was intended for modernizing refining processes and raising safety and environmental standards at its existing operations in the country. Rosneft owns a majority stake in the PCK refinery in the eastern German town of Schwedt and about a quarter of the shares of regional distributor Bayernoil. It is also involved in the Miro refinery and employs about 5,000 people in Germany.

This year, the state-owned company, whose CEO is a close confidante of President Vladimir Putin, bundled its holding in Germany under a subsidiary called Rosneft Deutschland GmbH.

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The new entity is said to be striving to enter the German market for car fuels with a chain of gas stations of its own. So far, it only supplies France's Total, but Sechin said Rosneft hoped to acquire parts of their German network.

The Rosneft CEO also condemned Western sanctions against Russia imposed over the Ukraine crisis. "Transferring political mistakes into the business world is a sign of weakness," Sechin, who is personally affected by them, said. "It is unfortunate that our common economic potential cannot be fully utilized," he added.

Rosneft's investment was praised as "a very good signal" by Michael Harms, the managing director of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations.

He noted that despite the sanctions bilateral trade sharply rebounded in the first two months of 2016, saying that he expected an overall increase of 10 per cent for the whole year.

uhe/jd (dpa, Rosneft)

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