Vladimir Putin, take a bow. Maybe with your political wisdom Peter Costello may finally be able to get Telstra’s share price high enough to sell it all off, once and for all.
You may remember how Russia, and its cozy little gas company Gazprom, received a heap of media attention over the Christmas break after the former Soviets threatened to turn off gas supplies to the neighbouring Ukraine. The Ukraine’s refusal to agree to a 400% increase in the price of gas demanded by the Russian-controlled gas behemoth Gazprom set the stage for a Christmas showdown; and with Gazprom controlling much of Eastern Europe’s gas, the world was watching.
As Australia feasted and swilled, the Ukraine prepared to freeze. That was until Russia – in a Scrooge like show of last minute compassion – conceded ground and struck a deal agreeing to only a 200% price hike. How considerate.
It was front page news all over Europe and received lusty attention from producers and editors worldwide who were starved of any real news over the holiday break. Russia got a slap on the wrist from the US for using gas a political tool; Gazprom showed its muscle to the world; and the Ukraine still had gas. Everyone was happy.
Well, yesterday, in a very timely move, Putin’s administration finally abolished its 20% foreign investment ceiling for Gazprom ownership – in which the Russian state holds a controlling stake. Foreign investors rushed to get their hands on Gazprom stocks when the Russian stock market returned from its new years break, and the share price rocketed 13%. All up, the Russian government looks to make billions from their gas deal with the Ukraine as well as from the sudden increase in the Gazprom stock value.
Not a bad little New Year money-spinner for the Russian government. Maybe Peter Costello could learn from Vladimir and lean on Sol Trujillo, give him a little poke or prod to show us some muscle and remind prospective investors just how much power Telstra actually wields.
Sol gets to play Rambo, cut some staff and raise a bit of hell; and the government, with a stronger share price, gets to finally get the Telstra monkey off its back.