Unhappy new year for Gazprom?

Company ‘thinking’ about reducing its entire staff count by up to a quarter as rouble drops value

Gazprom is considering cutting staff numbers by up to a quarter, Russian news agency Interfax reports. The Russian state-owned gas company could lose between 15-25% of its 459,500-strong workforce in both its parent company and “daughter” brands in the new year, as division heads are encouraged to submit new staffing levels by New Year’s Eve.

The rumoured layoffs brought to Interfax by a company source would go against the grain for Gazprom: in the past three years the number of staff has increased by an average 4.7% each year.

The last staff cut the company faced was in 2008-2009 when the number of employees dropped 16%.

The news of potential staff cuts came as Russia’s government increased interest rates in the country to try and ward off a significant drop in value for the rouble, which at one point yesterday was trading at 80 roubles to €1. In part the tumbling rouble was due to a similar drop in oil prices over the year. “But more fundamental concerns are building over the outlook for Russia’s economy and the likely policy response,” said Neil Shearing of Capital Economics.

As the value of the rouble against other currencies fluctuated wildly yesterday, the first deputy governor of Russia’s central bank said in a press conference that the situation was “critical” in the country.

There is uncertainty about the job cuts, with Gazprom denying the claims of belt tightening to RIA Novosti (a partially state-operated news agency) within 90 minutes of the original claim being made. “To exclude the possibility of optimising the organizational structure in the future it would be wrong, but the information that is now being discussed about plans to reduce the number does not correspond to reality,” said spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov.

Clarity – on the future state of staff at Gazprom, and the Russian economy – may come tomorrow, when Vladimir Putin hosts his regular televised marathon press conference.

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