【英语财经】中国在中俄天然气交易中占据优势 Russian Gas Deal Gives China the Edge

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2014-5-22 11:32

小艾摘要: Give China credit for striking while the iron's hot. As Vladimir Putin visits Beijing with an eye toward building up much-needed political capital, China seems to have forged a natural-gas megadeal in ...
Russian Gas Deal Gives China the Edge
Give China credit for striking while the iron's hot.

As Vladimir Putin visits Beijing with an eye toward building up much-needed political capital, China seems to have forged a natural-gas megadeal in its favor. After more than a decade of negotiations, and a bit of on-again/off-again brinkmanship, China National Petroleum Corp. finally signed a contract Wednesday with Russia's Gazprom.

Details of the contract are predictably murky, but Gazprom values the deal at $400 billion over its life. Last year's negotiations yielded an agreement to supply at least 38 billion cubic meters of gas a year for 30 years starting 2018. The final deal suggests an implied price for the gas of about $350 per thousand cubic meters.

At that price, China may have just gotten the better of Russia. This is roughly what it pays for Turkmen gas, its current biggest gas import, and is much cheaper than Asian liquefied natural gas at about $625 per thousand cubic meters.

It hasn't all cut China's way, however. Assume volumes take five years to ramp up to 38 billion cubic meters, notes Citigroup, and the implied contract price is closer to $380, roughly around where Gazprom sells gas to Europe. Gazprom also gets its wish for a price that moves in step with oil, similar to its European contracts; this protects it should gas prices fall, even as oil prices rise. The Russian company also seems to have refused China's wish to own Siberian assets.

Judging the contract's value to Gazprom involves more guesswork. Analysts Wednesday put the return on it at between 10% and 12%, just in line or slightly above Gazprom's cost of capital.

Even so, with Europe questioning its energy relationship with Moscow after the latter's foray into Ukraine and the U.S. awash with cheap shale gas, there is strategic value in showing the world that Gazprom has other buyers. The Chinese contract, too, is supposedly the first step in a broader push to sell gas eastward, as well as to the West.

But any calculations rest on flimsy foundations without clarity over what Gazprom will need to invest to fulfill its Chinese obligations. Russian suggestions Wednesday that spending could amount to $55 billion weren't clear on what infrastructure that bought or whether that investment would take Gazprom's export capacity to China to 38 billion cubic meters, or the eventual target of 60 billion.

The Russian company has prodigious cash flows from which to finance the project; it could reportedly get $20 billion in cheap Chinese financing to help, too. But Gazprom trades at just 3.2 times forecast earnings, partly due to its slapdash approach to spending. One hope is that investment to supply China, with the promise of future earnings growth, displaces downright wasteful and strategically useless expenditure elsewhere--a low bar by which to judge success.

For now, the Chinese have more moving in their favor. It is unclear whether CNPC or its listed arm PetroChina will buy the gas. But either way, Beijing last year began raising local gas prices closer to market levels, a boon to the companies.

There is always a risk that Beijing slows reform and calls upon the state-owned firm to subsidize consumers. But at the current pace, PetroChina should be able to pass the full price on to consumers by 2018, meaning neither gains nor losses on exports. The company currently loses money on its gas imports. The deal is also good news for gas distributors such as Kunlun Energy and China Gas, who see volumes growing over time.

Over time, this megadeal will upend Asia's gas markets, too. Its price could put pressure on higher-cost LNG producers in Indonesia and Australia. Like the U.S. shale-gas revolution that helped seal it, the Russia-China deal could be another marker of a cheaper-gas world.

中国抓住了趁热打铁的机会。

俄罗斯总统普京(Vladimir Putin)访华、着眼于增加急需的政治资本之际,中国似乎达成了一个对自己有利的天然气交易。经过十多年的谈判,经历了一些分分合合的边缘政策,中国石油天然气集团公司(China National Petroleum Corp.)周三终于与俄罗斯天然气工业股份公司(Gazprom, 简称:俄气)签署了一份合同。

这份合同的细节如预期的那样非常模糊,但是俄气透露,合同总价值为4,000亿美元。去年双方在磋商后达成了一份协议,俄罗斯从2018年开始供气,输气量逐年增长,最终达到每年380亿立方米,累计30年。最后的合同意味着,天然气的隐含价格为每千立方米350美元。

以这一价格水平看,中国似乎在交易中更占上风。这个价格基本相当于中国购买土库曼斯坦天然气的价格,而远远低于每千立方米625美元的亚洲液化天然气价格。目前土库曼斯坦是中国进口天然气最多的国家。

不过合同并非全部对中国有利。花旗(Citigroup)指出,假设供气量用五年时间升至380亿立方米,则隐含的合同价格接近380美元,大致与俄气出口至欧洲的价格持平。俄气还如其所愿地把天然气价格与原油价格挂钩,类似于其与欧洲的合同条款;这样,在原油价格上涨时,即使天然气价格下跌,俄气也能得到价格保护。俄气似乎还拒绝了中国想持有西伯利亚资产的愿望。

判断这份合同给俄气带来的利益则需要更多的猜测。分析师们周三估计,俄气在该项目的回报率为10%-12%,持平或略高于其资金成本。

即便如此,在俄罗斯入侵乌克兰以及美国廉价页岩气资源充足的背景下,欧洲正在重新考虑它与俄罗斯的能源关系,俄罗斯与中国签署的能源协议也就具有战略价值,该协议可以向世界展示,俄罗斯天然气还可以找到其他买家。在向西方国家出售天然气的同时,俄罗斯也在寻求向东方出口天然气,与中国签署的协议是俄罗斯在这方面迈出的第一步。

但上述计算都是在模糊数据的基础上得出的,目前仍不清楚俄气需要投入多少资金才能履行该公司与中国所签合同的义务。俄罗斯周三暗示,投资总额可能达到550亿美元,但并透露这一投资规模将用于建设哪些基础设施,或者这笔投资能否将俄气每年向中国出口天然气的能力提高至380亿立方米,或达到600亿立方米的最终目标。

俄气拥有大量可以为该项目提供资金的现金流,据称该公司还可能从中国获得200亿美元的低成本资金。不过,俄气目前的预期市盈率仅为3.2倍,这在一定程度上归咎于该公司草率的支出方式。外界期望的一种情况是:由于为履行中国合同而投入的资金未来能够推动利润增长,这些投资能够会消除俄气在其他方面严重浪费性的、同时也是缺乏战略意义的开支。

目前而言,中国获得了更有利的结果。目前还不清楚购买俄罗斯天然气的将是中国石油天然气集团公司(CNPC)还是其上市子公司中国石油(PetroChina)。但无论如何,中国政府去年开始将国内天然气价格上调至接近市场价格的水平,这对这两家公司都有利。

但中国政府改革步伐放慢并要求国有企业补贴消费者的风险总是存在的。不过按照目前的改革速度,2018年中国石油应当可以将成本完全转嫁给消费者,这意味着天然气出口既不赚钱也不会亏钱。目前中国石油的天然气进口业务处在亏损状态。中俄天然气协议对于昆仑能源(Kunlun Energy)和中国燃气(China Gas)等燃气分销商来说也是好消息,这些公司的业务量会逐渐增多。

中俄天然气协议也将逐渐颠覆亚洲天然气市场。该协议的价格可能对从印尼和澳大利亚进口的成本较高的液化天然气生产商造成压力。与促成中俄天然气协议的美国页岩气革命的作用一样,该协议可能成为全球天然气价格将下降的另一个标志。

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