The deal involves BP swapping 5% of its shares, valued at $7.8 billion, for 9.5% of state-controlled Rosneft's shares. The British oil company already owns a 1.3% stake in the Russian business. BP Chief Executive Officer Robert Dudley said the deal is the first cross-shareholding between a Russian state-owned national oil company (NOC) and western oil giant, and called the move "a new template for how business can be done in our industry."
The joint venture will make Rosneft the largest single BP shareholder. Their newly formed joint operating company will be two-thirds owned by Rosneft and one-third owned by BP. It will spend up to $2 billion in an initial phase of testing and well-drilling.
Still, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) in 2001 identified Russia as one of the four great "BRIC" growth economies. And while much of its gilt has been worn off, Russia still has many supporters in the investment world. So the question is: Provided you don't have to live there, is it worth devoting a few of your investment dollars to the country?
Having grown up on a working farm in Oregon, I understand this all too well. Those days taught me a lot about hard work and patience. Four decades later, as I read news stories about the current travails of Russian wheat farmers, the memories of getting up on wet winter mornings for the pre-dawn goat milking - or having to drive a tractor when I was only six years old - engender a lot of empathy for the difficult challenges the wheat farmers face.
Wild fires are racing through unharvested wheat fields, the result of a Russian heat wave that has destroyed more than one-fifth of that country's wheat crop. In addition to causing the farmers considerable pain, the crop losses have caused wheat prices to double this summer.
This has spawned an export ban in Russia, which effectively removes the third-largest exporter in the world from the market. It's also created a major profit opportunity for U.S. investors.
Let me explain.
Wheat rose to a 23-month high after Russia, the world's third-largest grower, announced a ban beginning Aug.15 that will last through the end of the year. Corn and rice prices also surged yesterday after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said a ban on those grains would be "appropriate" in light of skyrocketing prices.
Domestic grain prices gained 19% last week, faster than at the peak of the global food crisis in 2008. The ban includes wheat, barley, rye, corn and flour exports, according to the government decree that also set aside nearly $1.2 billion for stricken farmers.
And yet the consumer price index (CPI) statistics remain quiet - not giving ammunition to the deflationary camp, but making "inflationists" look silly, as well. Now, however, it is becoming obvious that inflation will soon arrive. But this time it is sneaking in through the back door - courtesy of our emerging-market trading partners.
Fortunately, there are some very clear steps that investors can take to protect themselves from this expected inflationary surge.
That's because most analysts think of Campbell the same way they think of many other consumer staples businesses - as a stable, slow moving business with no real short-term catalyst for growth.
You see, very few remember the tremendous upside that Warren Buffet realized when he invested in another "dull" staples business, The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO), just prior to a major overseas expansion.And it's precisely that kind of campaign Campbell has mounted - expanding its businesses in Russia, China, and other emerging economies to great success.
I've known Sergei for almost two decades now. We compare notes whenever I'm in Moscow. This time, I briefed his team on key developments in the international oil markets. And, as usual, I came away from the meetings with some incredibly valuable information - information the public simply can't get on its own.
So let me share what I've just learned. It's a tremendous opportunity to profit from Russian oil - without investing a dime in the country itself. Indeed, as you'll see in a minute, there are several ways to make money right here at home.
First, here's what's going on.
The traditional Russian oil fields in Western Siberia are well past peak production. Some satellite fields in the region remain, but the extraction gains will be marginal.
My sources in Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology (MNRE), the government entity responsible for distribution and oversight of development leases, now acknowledge that the country's overall crude oil production could decline by more than 7% over the next several years.