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Gazprom fact file: World utility giant

Former Gazprom chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin became Russia's prime minister in the 1990s  

With 362,000 employees and a virtual monopoly on the country's gas production, Russia's largest company resembles nothing less than a city-state. It is the world's biggest gas producer, accounting for one-quarter of global production and 23.5 percent of total proven reserves.

More facts about Gazprom:

* It was created by presidential decree as a joint-stock company in 1993.

* Gas production and transmission generate 95 percent of the group's revenues.

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* The company runs Russia's gas pipeline network, delivering gas to the territories of the former Soviet Union and to more than two dozen European countries.

* Gazprom produced about 560 billion cubic metres of gas in 1995; almost a third of that went to former Soviet countries and Europe.

* Within Russia, where Gazprom controls all the country's domestic pipelines and 94 percent of production, the company is a juggernaut among utilities.

* The Russian government holds a 38 percent stake in the company.

* Gazprom's proximity to power was underscored by the ascent of one of its own -- former chairman Viktor Chernomyrdin -- to the prime minister's post in the 1990s. Chernomyrdin served as premier from 1992-98. During his time in office, in 1996, Gazprom purchased a 30 percent stake in the country's largest independent broadcaster, NTV.

* Gazprom operates 144,000 km of pipelines in Russia -- about 3.5 times the distance around the Earth's equator.

* Gazprom accounts for about 8 percent of Russia's GNP. The company's integrated operations include exploration, processing, transportation and marketing.

* Aside from its highly publicised controlling stake in NTV, Gazprom also has interests in several Russian financial institutions.

* Gazprom is heavily in debt, relying on a number of strategic partnerships with Western European counterparts, including Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's ENI.

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