UPDATE 1-Rosneft agrees to exchange gas assets with Novatek

Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:53pm EST

* Rosneft to hand back stake in SeverEnergia

* Oil and gas tycoons bicker over control in energy sector

By Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Russia's top crude producer Rosneft has agreed to hand Novatek its stake in a gas producing joint venture in a non-cash exchange for other assets, Novatek said on Friday.

Rosneft will exchange its stake in SeverEnergia, which is expected to produce 36 billion cubic metres of gas and liquids by 2017, for Novatek's share in Sibneftegaz firm.

"The transaction doesn't involve any cash settlements and will be closed after receipt of the necessary approvals," Novatek said.

The deal materialised after bickering between different clans of wealthy businessmen intensified after the government opened up exports of liquefied natural gas, which had been monopolised by state-owned Gazprom.

Rosneft, headed by Igor Sechin, a long-standing ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, has ambitious plans to raise its output to 100 billion cubic metres of gas by 2020 and wants to build a liquefied natural gas plant (LNG) jointly with ExxonMobil in Russia's Far East by 2018.

He faced resistance from Novatek's owners, its head Leonid Mikhelson and Gennady Timchenko, a co-owner of Gunvor trading house, according to market sources.

A source close to Novatek has said that SeverEnergia assets are seen as of great importance to the company and would have fitted with its Yamal project to produce LNG jointly with France's Total and China's CNPC by 2017.

Rosneft recently bought into SeverEnergia by acquiring a stake in Italy's Enel for $1.8 billion, while Novatek and Gazprom Neft have agreed to acquire Eni's share for $2.94 billion.

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