* Unlear whether Lloyds, HSBC will be replaced - bankers
* Bankers watching to see if Deutsche will still support
* British government condemns Russia on Crimea, east Ukraine
* German bank under less political pressure - bankers
By Sandrine Bradley
LONDON, June 5 A $1.5-2 billion loan involving
BP and Russian oil giant Rosneft is going
ahead, bankers said on Thursday, even after arranging banks
Lloyds and HSBC pulled out as unease grows among some Western
lenders about funding Russian deals.
However, they said it was unclear whether the British-based
banks would be replaced or the remaining lead arrangers,
Deutsche Bank and Bank of China, would push on with completing
the syndicated oil-prepayment loan on their own.
"There is an extensive bank group including Japanese,
Chinese and European banks. The issue is not replacing the money
... it is whether we will replace the mandated lead arranger
roles," a banker close to the deal said.
Rosneft and London-based BP, via a specially created
company, are trying to complete the financing which is backed by
the Russian group's future oil production.
Rosneft, BP and Lloyds declined to comment while HSBC could
not immediately be reached for comment.
Lloyds is 25 percent-owned by the British government, which
has repeatedly condemned Russia over its annexation of Crimea in
March and accused it of involvement in a separatist rebellion in
Moscow denies the charges but Rosneft chief Igor Sechin has
been hit by U.S. sanctions as part of a broader move to punish
Russia for its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
The loan was launched to banks in late November at $5
billion but progress has been slow and it was reduced to up to
$2 billion in April.
Bankers said the deal still has enough support from lenders
to go ahead despite the loss of Lloyds, which walked away this
week followed by HSBC.
"All the other banks are still in the deal, I don't think it
will have any impact, we are surprised they were there in the
first place," a second banker said.
In April Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 80 percent owned
by the British government, also walked away from a $1 billion
club loan for Russian petrochemicals company Sibur.
Bankers are watching to see whether Deutsche Bank will
continue to support the deal but said the lender was not under
the same political pressure as British banks. Germany, which is
a major importer of Russian natural gas, has often been more
cautious towards Moscow than Britain, which gets most of its gas
from the North Sea and Qatar.
"Germany has a greater energy dependency on Russia than the
UK," the first banker said.
Rosneft is relying increasingly on pre-payment loans as
other sources of financing dry up for Russian companies. Many
Russian bankers have acknowledged growing difficulties in
raising funds due to tensions with the West and the U.S. and
European Union sanctions.
Rosneft took out two jumbo syndicated loans totalling $30.1
billion in late 2012 and early 2013 to finance its purchase of
the TNK BP oil company. Lenders were left overexposed to Rosneft
and its plans to refinance the bridging loans with bond issues
fell through last May.
(Editing by Tessa Walsh and David Stamp)