Miller will inflate "Lakhta Center" with gas

The giant office center in St. Petersburg was built with the money of Gazprom’s subsidiary Gazprom Neft.
Europe’s tallest building, the 462-meter-high Lakhta Center, will soon replace the owner. Gazprom buys future headquarters from its own Gazprom Neft, which has financed the construction of a skyscraper in recent years, told Vedomosti four people familiar with the managers of both companies. The deal should close in the near future, its amount will exceed 120 billion rubles., Said one of the interlocutors. A person close to Gazprom confirms: the above amount is close to the actual amount. He did not specify it. The Lakhta Center redemption will not affect either the production program or external financing, he adds, the schedule and the amount of payments are synchronized with dividends from Gazprom Neft. Representatives of Gazprom and Gazprom Neft declined to comment.

A part of the total amount of the transaction has already been transferred to Gazprom Neft in 2018, says one of the Vedomosti interlocutors, the main share of payments will be in 2019, the remainder - in 2020 will be signed in January, he knows. The transfer of ownership is simply a matter of accounting and maintenance, says the source: the transfer of the object is now necessary in order to begin the internal arrangement of the headquarters in January.

“Lakhta Center” is a multifunctional social and business complex in the north-west of St. Petersburg. The total area of ​​the complex is more than 13 hectares, its main object is a skyscraper, which according to the plan of the designers should be the highest in Europe. It is supposed to accommodate the headquarters of the Gazprom Group and the company Gazprom Neft. Construction of the 462-meter skyscraper began at the end of 2012, and a month ago the main construction work was completed and permission to put the complex into operation was obtained.

The cost of construction "Gazprom" has never disclosed. But from the very beginning, the only source of financing for the construction was the loans of Gazprom Neft to the MFC Lakhta Center company. The size of its debt at the end of the third quarter amounted to 120.7 billion rubles. ($ 1.82 billion at the rate of the Central Bank on December 13), follows from the statements of the oil company.

Based on the book value of the asset, it can be assumed that a significant part of the dividends of Gazprom Neft will be used to pay off payments for Lakhta Center. Gazprom owns a 95.68% stake in the oil company. In total, in 2017, Gazprom Neft paid out 71.1 billion rubles to shareholders, which amounted to 28.1% of IFRS net income. Of these, 68 billion rubles. Got to Gazprom.

For the interim dividend for the first nine months of 2018, the company's board of directors recommended allocating 104.5 billion rubles, which is 35% of net profit under IFRS. The share of Gazprom - 100 billion rubles. An extraordinary meeting of shareholders in absentia will vote on this issue on December 14. Based on the latest recommendations of the board of directors, the total amount of dividends of Gazprom Neft for 2018 could amount to up to 130 billion rubles, Moody’s Vice President Denis Perevezhentsev calculated.

Dmitry Marinchenko, director of the Fitch corporate department, in principle, does not see a reasonable explanation for the fact that Gazprom Neft financed the construction of the Lakhta Center. Gazprom Neft is smaller in size and does not have access to the Western capital market due to sanctions, unlike Gazprom, reminds Marinchenko. The ransom of the center by Gazprom would be the restoration of business logic and should be positively perceived by the minority shareholders of Gazprom Neft, he said. “In essence, this is about returning money to the company. We expect that Gazprom Neft will soon have a generally neutral cash flow after dividends, ”says Marinchenko. - In theory, funds can be used to pay off current debt or for new projects that are not yet taken into account in our forecasts. For example, on the development of assets in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, where the Neptune and Triton fields were recently discovered. ”
Two consultants who worked with the Lakhta Center say that, on the whole, the sale of the complex to Gazprom has been discussed before. They do not consider a transaction as a real transaction. “It's just shifting from one pocket to another,” says one of them.

A top manager of an investment fund connects the purchase of an office center with the traditional reluctance of Gazprom to pay high dividends. He fears that the acquisition of "Lakhta Center" may reduce the basis for calculating dividends for the year 2018.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller in November 2017 emphasized that, despite the large investment program, the absolute amount of dividend payments to the company in the coming years will not decrease. At the end of November 2018, the management of Gazprom informed that the company plans to increase the amount of payments for 2018 per share to double digits. "Interfax" with reference to the source reported that they can reach 10.4 rubles. per share (8.04 rubles a year earlier). If this value is approved by the board of directors and the meeting of shareholders, the amount of dividend payments by Gazprom in 2018 could increase by 29.3% to RUB 246.2 billion. Based on the consensus forecast for Reuters, Gazprom can earn 1.2 trillion rubles in 2018. net profit.