Vitaliy Katsenelson of Motley Fool Takes on Shell & Sakhalin

This week on MSNBC (our emphasis):

Russia: We Don’t Need the West Anymore Did the Russian government muscle Shell out of Sakhalin? By Vitaliy Katsenelson, CFA [Royal Dutch Shell’s $7.5 billion sale to Gazprom may have been coerced by the Russian government. Vitaliy Katsenelson looks at the Sakhalin-2 sale and examines the long-term implications if Russia disregards Western investment.] I can’t say I was surprised to see that Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) will be “selling” 50% plus one share of the Sakhalin-2 project to Gazprom for $7.5 billion. Several months ago, the Russian government wanted to take Royal Dutch Shell to court because it was ruining the environment. I suppose when the Russian government referred to the environment, it meant the economic environment, not Mother Nature. The “environmental” issue was very simple: Product sharing agreements (PSA) signed by the Russian government with Shell were not considered advantageous to Russia — at least not anymore. … I’ll be blunt: The Russian government manipulated its environmental/legal levers to muscle an ownership stake in the project out of Shell, possibly at a significant discount. I understand that it’s so much easier to be sympathetic to the poor children and elders that this oil money is supposed to go to, than to a multibillion dollar, impersonal, foreign (Dutch to be exact) oil company. It sounds like a Robin Hood act, taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor. It’s certainly not the first time this has happened in Russia. In 1917, on Nov. 7 (still a widely celebrated holiday in Russia), under the leadership of Mr. Lenin, the masses took from the rich and gave to … themselves. We all know how that story ended. You cannot have government thievery be a part of the free market system and expect the market to function normally.

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