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Shell still eyes Russian investments despite debacle

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Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell PLC intends to continue searching for new investment opportunities in Russia despite recent problems with the Russian government over the management of its Sakhalin-II oil and gas project, Shell's Chief Executive Jeroen Van de Veer said Friday.

"We will at least start to look at those new opportunities for the simple fact that Russia is so large in oil and gas reserves and we think we are still a good fit with the things we can offer to the Russian companies," Van de Veer said in a CNBC television interview broadcast from the sidelines of a conference in Davos, Switzerland.

He said he was surprised by the environmental complaints made against Shell's management of the Sakhalin-II oil and gas project, a $20 billion project located on Sakhalin Island located off the east coast of Russia.

"We had had 200 audits which had shown to us" that we had done well in a particularly harsh artic environment, Van de Veer said. "... We had not forseen" the complaints, he added.

Van de Veer said he was glad that the company was able to strike a deal with OAO Gazprom (GSPBEX.RS) to sell roughly half of the Sakhalin II project to the Russian oil major before year-end.

He added that "we have to find a solution with Gazprom ...and (make sure) that Russia from an economic point is happy and that we have from an environmental view a path forward."

Van de Veer dismissed concerns that Shell might be squeezed out of future investments on Russia's continental shelf.

The Russian newspaper Vedomosti recently reported taht the Russian government has agreed in principle to entrust the development of all oil and gas deposits on the country's continental shelf to state-controlled OAO Rosneft (ROSN.RS) and Gazprom.

"Russia has a lot of oil and gas. We are good in technology. We've learned to do more complex projects and if we can find opportunities, we will certainly look at that," he said.

Van de Veer denied that he had held talks with BP PLC's (BP) CEO John Browne about a potential merger between the two oil majors.

He added that the company would stick to its organic growth strategy and make acquisitions - such as its latest bid to buy out minority shareholders at Shell Canada - when it made sense.

"When we compare it to other possibilities, we like our own organic growth" plan, he said.

© MarketWatch

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