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Russian watchdog says Schlumberger-Eurasia Drilling deal "has big problems"
[MOSCOW] The acquisition of a 51 per cent stake in Russia's Eurasia Drilling Co (EDC) by US oilfield services giant Schlumberger "has big problems" in the current political situation, the head of Russia's competition watchdog said on Wednesday.
Schlumberger applied to the watchdog for approval to buy the stake in late July in a deal which is widely seen as testing the state of relations between Russia and the United States.
"I think this deal (with Schlumberger) will have big problems," Igor Artemyev, head of Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), told reporters.
No one at Schlumberger was immediately available for comment.
On Aug 2, US President Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law new sanctions against Russia, a move Moscow said amounted to a full-scale trade war and an end to hopes for better ties with the Trump administration.
Schlumberger needs a special approval by the US Treasury, Mr Artemyev said. "Do you believe the U.S. Treasury will issue such an approval in the current situation?"
The deal marks Schlumberger's second attempt to buy into EDC and the first US stake in Russia's oil and gas industry since sanctions were imposed on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
In 2015 Schlumberger agreed to buy 45.65 per cent of EDC for US$1.7 billion but the deal fell through after FAS repeatedly postponed its approval.
That deal met with resistance in Russia where there were worries that Schlumberger might seize control of EDC, a senior government official said in 2015. EDC then delisted its shares on the London Stock Exchange.
"Nothing has changed since that time, plus (Russia's) Natural Resources Ministry has taken a tough stance. There are many different and not too good (things) happening in (the) relationship for this deal," Mr Artemyev added.
Russia's Natural Resources Ministry said in early August that Russia should impose "limits" on the American company in this deal because the industry was of strategic importance for Russia.
Mr Artemyev said that Russia would give consideration to the deal but U.S. Treasury approval was still needed.