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Linde falls as Russian court seizes Baltic LNG assets

By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com -- Linde (NYSE:LIN) stock fell 2.6% in early trading on Tuesday after a Leningrad regional court seized assets in Russia valued at over half a billion dollars at the request of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom (MCX:GAZP).

Gazprom, along with another locally-owned company, had sued the German-U.S. company for breach of contract after it failed to complete the construction of a gas processing plant at the port of Ust-Luga on the Baltic Sea. The plant was part of a project that included shipments of liquefied natural gas to world markets, which would have expanded Russia's energy market clout beyond its traditional European export markets.

Linde had stopped work on the facility, along with its more significant Arctic LNG project near Murmansk, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year, which led to sanctions being imposed on Russia's oil and gas companies. The cessation of work on the LNG projects has thus put back Russia's international ambitions on the world gas market by some years.

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Russia's presence in traditional export markets has also shrunk dramatically as a result of the war. Gazprom said on Monday that its exports outside the former Soviet republics - which have traditionally been its main cash cow - fell by 45.5% last year to just over 100 billion cubic meters. They are likely to fall further this year, given Moscow's refusal to sell gas to EU countries that are currently sanctioning it.

The contract between Linde and its Russian counterparties is officially subject to international arbitration in a tribunal split between Hong Kong and Stockholm. However, the court ruling effectively reduces to near zero the likelihood that Linde will ever be able to recover its sunk costs.

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