Gazprom's Moscow headquarters remains a hive of activity as the Russian energy behemoth announces more alliances and acquisitions.

On June 26, Gazprom announced that it is buying a 19.9% stake in the independent Russian gas supplier Novatek at what it terms ‘market prices’. Gazprom says the deal will be completed in August 2006, giving the state gas giant two of the eight seats on Novatek’s board. However Gazprom has also agreed that its stake shall not exceed the 19.9% being bought.

Novatek is Russia’s biggest independent gas E&P player, and the second largest gas producer in the country after Gazprom itself. The deal is being viewed as broadly positive for Novatek, as it should help enshrine its access to the Gazprom-controlled gas transport network. On the other hand, Gazprom gains further access to E&P assets, something that it badly needs in order to fulfill its export commitments.

The International Energy Agency has already warned that Gazprom’s lack of investment in infrastructure could hinder its ability to meet demand for exported gas by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, Gazprom has made further strides in its downstream expansion in the EU just days after buying the UK firm Pennine Natural Gas. Belgian gas distributor Fluxys says that it is to work with Gazprom to explore underground gas storage possibilities in Belgium.

Diversifying our energy sources and promoting our liquid natural gas, storage and transmission facilities are our main priorities, the Associated Press quoted Belgian energy minister Marc Verwilghen as saying.