Exclusive: Russia's Gazprombank chairman says Yamal LNG financing in final stages

Exclusive: Russia's Gazprombank chairman says Yamal LNG financing in final stages

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A deal to raise financing for the Novatek-led Yamal LNG project in Russia is in its final stages, the chairman of the management board at Gazprombank, Andrey Akimov, told Reuters.

Financing for the $27 billion project is seen as a test for Russia in securing foreign loans, at a time when the country's access to capital markets is limited by Western sanctions over its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In a rare interview, Akimov said Chinese lenders are set to provide $12 billion, Russian banks $4 billion, and export credit agencies are expected to put up another $4 billion.

Gazprombank is a co-lender to Yamal LNG on the Russian side, along with Sberbank . State development bank VEB has pledged $3 billion in banking guarantees to the project.

"We will travel to China in early November (for talks)," Akimov said, adding he expected a deal to be reached next month.

Banking sources previously told Reuters that efforts to secure financing had stalled, with the owners baulking at costly Chinese loans and sanctions hampering alternatives, warning the search could drag into the next year.

Originally, Novatek, where close President Vladimir Putin ally Gennady Timchenko is a co-owner, had expected to raise up to $20 billion from Chinese banks, with the first funds expected by the end of 2014.

Chief Executive Leonid Mikhelson said last month a deal was expected in four months' time at most with the amount cut to $12 billion.

Mark Gyetvay, chief financial officer at Novatek, told a conference call on Thursday that Yamal LNG shareholders had already invested around $10 billion in the venture.

Novatek has a 50.1 percent stake in what will be only Russia's second LNG plant. France's Total and China's CNPC hold 20 percent each. Last month, Novatek agreed to sell a 9.9 percent stake to the China Silk Road Fund.

"Yamal LNG financing continues to move forward as we are at the final stages of collecting credit approvals from financing institutions," Gyetvay said.

"As of today, the overall amount of credit approvals received already exceed $20 billion ... However we are still waiting for some more credit approvals from international banks."

Gyetvay gave no timeframe for the deal and said arranging the financing had been "painstakingly slow", as Novatek, under U.S. sanctions, was facing different barriers beyond its control.

Yamal LNG is set to start production in 2017 and should consist of three lines of 5.5 million tonnes a year of LNG capacity each.

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn and David Holmes)