* Summa buys out Vitol, Petronas JV in terminal project
* Rosneft seen interested as builds up trading business
* Traders sceptical due to insufficient Urals supply in
(Adds detail, VTTI, traders comments)
By Vladimir Soldatkin and Gleb Stolyarov
MOSCOW, Feb 12 Russian investment group Summa
has bought out the world's largest oil trader as a partner in a
firm building a terminal at the Dutch port of Rotterdam, which
could damage its plan to establish Urals crude as a market
Russian authorities and Summa want the planned terminal to
provide a more readily tradable reservoir of Urals crude as they
try to establish it as an alternative benchmark to North Sea
Summa said on Wednesday it had bought the 25 percent that it
did not already own in Shtandart TT BV, the operator of the $1
billion project, from VTTI, an affiliate of top oil trader
Vitol. A spokesman declined to disclose financial details.
Analysts had seen the backing of Geneva-based Vitol as vital
to the project. Without it, Summa may struggle to get the kind
of volumes needed. The investment group may also face a
challenge from state-owned oil company Rosneft to take
control of the project, industry sources said.
The Vedomosti daily said VTTI - a 50/50 venture between
Vitol and Malaysian shipping company MISC Bhd, an arm of state
oil firm Petronas - quit the project because it was
unable to secure control of the joint venture.
"Although the decision was based on a combination of
factors, the most important factor is that VTTI is entering into
a high investment phase, stemming from an ambitious global
growth strategy. Within this context, VTTI has decided to give
priority to other opportunities," a VTTI spokesman said.
To secure a benchmark status for Urals, Russia needs to
supply ample and steady volumes of the blend, which has not been
the case so far, traders say.
Urals is typically sold at a discount to benchmark North Sea
Brent crude, a disadvantage long questioned by Russian President
Vladimir Putin. Most Urals cargoes are sold via long-term
contracts, which are based on price estimates that last weeks or
The planned terminal was initially expected to handle 40,000
barrels per day of crude oil and 20,000 bpd of oil products
starting from 2015, but the industry sources said the timetable
was unrealistic after the project had already been dogged by
Meanwhile, Russia's top oil producer Rosneft has been in
talks with Summa to enter the project, the sources said.
A Rosneft spokesman declined to comment.
Rosneft recently acquired Morgan Stanley's oil
trading unit, in a signal that it is keen to profit from its own
trading after selling oil for years via international energy
companies such as BP or trading houses such as Vitol and
One of the sources said the Rotterdam terminal had become
more attractive for Rosneft after the Morgan Stanley deal.
Traders have expressed doubts, however, about the viability
of the Rotterdam project due to a lack of liquid Urals supplies
in Europe as Rosneft increases its oil flows to China.
"You can't force (Russian companies) to ship oil there.
Deals with existing storage would be cheaper," a trader said.
"I think VTTI understood that the project lacks prospects,"
another trader said.
Traders said Rotterdam was not the prime destination for
Russian seaborne oil.
Rotterdam is Europe's biggest logistic and industrial hub,
serving a European market of 350 million consumers. Its crude
oil throughput was down 7.3 percent last year to 91.1 million
tonnes, mainly because of Europe's weak fuel market and
maintenance shutdowns at refineries.
(additional reporting by Gleb Gorodyankin; Editing by Elizabeth
Piper and Jane Baird)