In a meeting with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Vladimir Putin made a surprise announcement that the South Stream pipeline, a joint project between Gazprom and Italy’s Eni, could be finished before its official start-up date of 2013. Plans for South Stream’s expanded volume were discussed by Russia’s Energy Ministry in Bulgaria this week, as was the controversial plan to use the existing Bulgarian gas transit network to aid this expansion. Transneft says it will complete its China pipeline by the end of the year. Russia’s Energy Minister is leaving the question of Rosneft’s privatization open, with the possibility of selling a 75% stake not to be considered until 2011. Canada-listed mining group SouthGobi Energy Resources has secured a $300 million loan from CIC (China Investment Corp). More on Russia’s surging oil industry.