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Rosneft wants US$48b from state fund

[MOSCOW] Rosneft, Russia's top oil producer hit by Western sanctions, has asked for more than US$48.52 billion) from the National Wealth Fund, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told reporters on Wednesday.

The National Wealth Fund is one of Russia's two funds that collect windfall oil revenues. It now stands at US$83 billion.

While its main function is to support the country's pension system, it has been used to support other sanction-hit firms such as gas producer Novatek or financial institution VTB.

A government source told Reuters in August that Rosneft, which produces more oil than Iraq or Iran, has asked NWF to buy 1.5 trillion roubles (S$46.2 billion) of its bonds to cover debt and finance new projects.

Rosneft, which is shut from Western financing due to sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict, needs to repay 440 billion roubles in debt by the end of this year and another 626 billion roubles next year, according to its latest presentation.

Mr Siluanov did not say whether the Finance Ministry or any other governmental body has already approved the request. He would not comment on terms or maturity of any instrument Rosneft would offer in exchange for funds.

Mr Siluanov has previously said the government intends to maintain a 60 per cent cap on the amount that can be invested domestically from the National Wealth Fund.

The Economy Ministry earlier received Novatek's request for 100 billion to 150 billion roubles to support its Yamal LNG project.

The bonds it may issue for the National Wealth Fund to buy would likely carry an interest equal to an annual inflation rate plus 1 percentage point and have a maturity of around 20 years, Deputy Economy Minister Nikolai Podguzov said.