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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Russian tycoon Mikhail Friedman warned that it would be “irresponsible” to switch to natural gas quickly


Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman warned that the rapid shift from natural gas to renewable energy would be “dangerous and irresponsible” and believed that the recent energy crisis could be partly blamed It is undervalued in the industry.

Friedman said he will increase investment in alternative energy sources to reduce the carbon impact of his oil and gas empire.

But he cautioned against shutting down the gas supply too quickly, saying that the recent price spike reflects the lack of investment by the company in view of the “enormous public pressure for decarbonization”, which signals investors and banks to “cut off the relationship with oil and gas”. . Gas business”.

He predicts that natural gas will play an important role in the “decades” of energy structure.

“Transition is a very complex and very challenging process,” he told the Financial Times in an interview at Mayfair headquarters. “For now, we don’t have any viable alternatives to life without natural gas.”

Friedman is one of the richest businessmen in Russia, but he spends half of his time in the UK. His holding group LetterOne has more than US$10 billion in investment and will announce the latest deal with a British recycling company next week.

The company’s pre-tax profit in 2021 is expected to exceed $5 billion.

Friedman owns a large number of shares in Russia through Alpha Group, which he co-founded in 1991, but founded LetterOne in 2013 with his partners in London, with the capital to sell shares in the oil company TNK-BP to Russia 14 billion U.S. dollars raised by oil companies.

LetterOne’s biggest business is its energy division, which is chaired by former BP boss John Browne, but the investment group has a large portfolio of telecommunications, energy and retail businesses.

Friedman’s long-term strategy diverged his company from other investors in the industry.

He hinted that there is an upcoming dispute over the future of Wintershall Dea, Europe’s largest independent gas and oil company, and LetterOne, together with majority shareholder BASF, owns a third of the company.

Friedman pointed out that the German company is facing pressure from investors and activists because of its holdings in the natural gas producer, and said that there is a “methodological difference” between LetterOne and BASF. BASF hopes to sell its shares in the 127-year-old German company through an IPO, but LetterOne wants to “make a long-term strategy.”

“For us, this is a [long-term] The mission is to move the business in the right direction. For BASF, the situation is a bit different,” he added.

At present, LetterOne is unlikely to be sold in any IPO, nor will it prevent the process, but it can support the sale of part of the company to private equity buyers.

Friedman hopes to support the company’s lucrative natural gas business, while investing in renewable energy businesses and technologies that “reduce negative environmental damage.”

He said: “Let us try to combine these two methods.”

In the UK, LetterOne is investing up to £1 billion in fiber-optic broadband in a regional infrastructure company called Upp. In the healthcare sector, it owns the retailer Holland & Barrett. Friedman said the company will have a new The business model is service- and product-oriented.

He said that the overall environment of the British oligarchs was “deteriorated by the confrontation between Russia and the West”, but added that “on a personal level, it has become more friendly because people distinguish between ordinary Russian oligarchs and our personal labels”.

Even so, he said that “there is a certain competitive disadvantage as a Russian” and that “extra effort is needed to make people believe that what we are doing is correct”.

He added that the British government “has a lot of information to distinguish good people from bad people… It is important to find a way to distinguish politics from those who like me who want to be normal business citizens… We try to be transparent. .”

The billionaire stated that he does not intend to give his five children any wealth, saying that inheriting so much money is “dangerous” and that it is important enough that they can make a living on their own.

Unlike other Russian oligarchs, he is not a “charismatic man” who “talented” spends money. “I don’t have a yacht. I don’t have a plane. I have a house in London. I have a house in Moscow.”

Additional reporting by David Sheppard in London and Max Seddon in Moscow



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