State-controlled Italian oil giant Eni has previously said it wants to sell down its stake in Saipem to focus more resources on its bread-and-butter business of finding oil and gas.
“Saipem is not currently on the market, we are waiting for a proposal,” Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said on the sidelines of a conference, when asked if the company was interested in Saipem.
Rosneft, Russia’s biggest crude oil producer, could benefit from having one of the top Western oil service companies on board as it seeks out experience and know-how for tapping deep water fields in the Arctic.
Rosneft has significant stakes in refiner Saras and tire producer Pirelli.
Bankers said it was unlikely Rosneft would buy a large stake in Saipem if Eni were to sell its entire 43 percent holding. Under Italian law, if a company holds more than a 30 percent stake it must bid for the rest of the shares, and this could complicate Saipem’s relations with other large oil companies.
“Rosneft could buy a small 10-20 percent stake but I can’t see it taking more. Aside from sanctions, it’s not practical. No oil major would give sensitive information to Saipem if they knew a competitor controlled it,” a Milan banker familiar with the matter said.
Eni, the biggest buyer of natural gas from Russian gas giant Gazprom, is a major buyer of oil from Rosneft and has a joint venture with the company for the exploration of assets in the Black Sea and the Barents Sea.