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FINANCIAL TIMES US COMPANIES MARKETS OPINION WORK & CAREERS LIFE & ARTS gor Sechin + Add to myrr [gor Sechin, Moscow’s oil man turned global dealmaker The head of Rosneft has pulled off a huge investment coup, writes Jack Farchy 66 Person in the news Bechin ee) Fie & save recent o,20¥8 by: lack Farahy n early 2015, Igor Sechin sat opposite Russian president Vladimir Putin and received 1 public dressing-down. “Where is the real Sechin?” Mr Putin asked his old ally in inswer to the Rosneft chief's request for government support for the state oil sompany, reminding him to consider the impact of his actions on the country’s sconomy. Dn Wednesday evening, Mr Sechin again faced Mr Putin, this time triumphant, innouncing to the president a deal to sell a 19.5 per cent government stake in Rosneft © Glencore and the Qatar Investment Authority for just over €1obn. The deal would ita stroke cut the Russian government's budget deficit by a fifth and represents the argest foreign direct investment into the country since western sanctions were mposed in 2014. It also marks a return to dealmaking form for Mr Sechin, 56, one of the most powerful figures in the Russian elite, a man at the centre of almost every financial and political event in the country. In the past two months alone, Rosneft has announced a string of acquisitions worth nearly $11bn. Mr Sechin also played a key part in the political event that has shaken the country: the arrest last month of economy minister Alexei Ulyukaev for allegedly extorting a $2m bribe from Rosneft. People close to the Rosneft boss say his ever-growing, clout is underpinned by his ability to execute deals that serve government interests. “Times are hard. They want solutions. He comes to them with solutions,” says one. The sale of Rosneft’s shares to Glencore and Qatar represented the solution to a problem that had seemed intractable: how to sell shares in the Russian company in ions. While not prohibiting companies from buying Rosneft spite of western sanc shares, they made many cautious; as well as low oil prices, and the dubious desirability of a minority stake in a Kremlin-controlled entity. Most investors assumed Rosneft would buy its own shares back from the government in order to meet a year- end deadline to complete the transaction. Related article When Mr Putin congratulated him on a “very good result”, Mr Sechin replied that it was Glencore and Qatar take stake worth €10bn in Rosneft Oil trader secures 220,000 b/d su ly deal for just ese = 4 1960 into a family of factory workers, he is “only possible thanks to your personal contribution and support”. The Rosneft bos: has had plenty of time to practise his loyalty to the Russia n leader. Born in Leningrad in one of Mr Putin's oldest allies. After stints as a translator in Angola and Mozambique, where he is widely believed to have worked for Soviet military intelligene he became Mr Putin’s chief of staff when the latter was deputy mayor of St Petersburg in the 1990s. When Mr Putin became president, Mr Sechin followed as deputy head of his presidential administration; when Mr Putin moved to become prime minister in 2008, Mr Sechin again followed him. Mr Sechin was instrumental in transforming Rosneft from a bit player in the Russian oil industry, dwarfed by oligarch-owned competitors, into the country’s largest company and the world’s largest listed oil company with an output of 5.5m barrels of lent per day — half that of Saudi Arabia. oil equive Colleagues say Mr Sechin is a workaholic and an exacting boss, who has been known, for dust. He says he spent 650 hours in the air last year. He guards his personal life fiercely. He sued two Russian newspapers this summer after they claimed he had a mansion outside Moscow and bought his new wife a luxury yacht. A third case, against business outlet RBC, is due to be heard on Monday. His relentless expansion of the state’s role in the Russian economy has made him a bogeyman for Russia’s economic liberals. He was considered closely associated with the state conquest of Yukos, the private company that was bankrupted, then largely folded into Rosneft. In 2013, Mr Sechin led Rosneft’s $55bn acquisition of TNK-BP. It was badly timed: oil prices and the rouble plunged in late 2014, and Rosneft’s hefty debts became problematic. At one point he suggested the government should spend $4obn buying Rosneft’s debt. Then, on the eve of a $7bn bond repayment deadline, the company borrowed heavily in the local market in a deal that spooked traders, contributing to a collapse in the value of the rouble. A few weeks later he was in front of Mr Putin, eating humble pie. “He lost a few feathers, ays one oil executive in Moscow, “but he never went away.” The clearest sign of Mr Sechin’s rebound came with the battle for Bashneft, a midsized oil producer onsale in the government privatisation programme. Despite being a state company, Rosneft submitted an application — to the displeasure of much of the government. Months of infighting ensued and rumours circulated that Mr Sechin might lose his job. Yet in October he prevailed, buying Bashneft for $5.2bn. A month later, Mr Ulyukaev, who had “Everyone in the government is afraid of Sechin, especially after the Ulyukayev case,” spoken against the deal, was under arrest. says one Russian banker. The deal with Glencore and Qatar demonstrates that Mr Sechin is an indispensable asset to the Kremlin, argues James Henderson, a Russia expert at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “Rosneft is the hub for international co-operation in the energy sphere.” What will Mr Sechin’s next deal be? Few expect him to rest on his laurels. In a rare personal article on his love of jazz, he wrote: “The most important thing in jazz, just as in life, is improvisation.” The writer is FT correspondent in Moscow Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web. oe i=) Bite & save Read latest Glencore uses Aussie playbook for Rosneft deal