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BBC World Service l Inside the Global Giants
 
  Introduction
  Unilever - Cleaning up in Africa
  Unilever - Power in Ghana
  Gazprom - The world's largest gas company
  Gazprom - Modernising a giant
  Levi's - Dilemmas in denim
  Levi's - Balancing ethics with profit
  Shell - Green or mean
  Shell - Future considerations
  Solectron - The invisible multinational
  Solectron - Re-inventing itself
 
Gazprom - The world's largest gas company



It is the biggest company in Russia, the largest gas company on the planet, and it is exactly ten years old. In the past it has had a reputation as corrupt and secretive, but nowadays Gazprom, the privatised gas giant, is trying to earn the trust of international investors. This forms part of its ambitions to expand its profitable business supplying gas outside of Russia.

It is an uphill task, and there is no certainty that Gazprom has the ability to convince potential investors it has mended its ways, and is no longer rooted in the Soviet past.

Gazprom's pipeline operations are based in western Siberia, and its subsidiary, Tyumentransgaz, is virtually a state within a state. This is the heart of Russia's pipeline business, where gas from theYamal Pensinsula near the freezing Arctic Ocean is piped down thousands of kilometers through Siberia, and west towards the rest of Russia, Ukraine and Western Europe.

Tyumentransgaz does more than just pump gas. It has created towns and cities to service the whole length of the pipeline, which it manages and runs almost single-handed.

The head of the Tyumentransgaz company, Pavel Zavalny, whose photo stares out from calendars and picture frames everywhere, acknowledges the “state within a state” accusations, but argues that the company simply needs to look after its workers and the communities around them.

Of course, people need good reasons to come and work in the hostile Siberian climate. They are provided with the best medical care, the best entertainment, and the best food. This one part of the Gazprom empire owns 2 thousand cows and 3 thousand pigs in its company farms, runs 26 cultural centres and many sports centres, offers subsidised holidays in Black Sea resorts for employees, and owns a sausage factory and a brewery. It even runs a state of the art, marble-lined medical and therapy centre which offers orthodox treatments, as well as odder treatments such as vaginal and anal mud therapy.

In addition to all of these perks, there is also the Tyumentransgas TV station, which doesn't even pretend to be unbiased. It's there to serve the company's will.

It hardly seems the picture of a modern global company, as most of those have unceremoniously dumped their "non-core activities". There is an argument, however, that the energy business is different from other industries, requiring energy corporations to operate in distinct ways.

Working in far-off places with no previous infrastructure means oil and gas sites will always be, to some extent, company towns. Gazprom certainly strives to ensure its employees can move in and out of these locations by operating a private fleet of around fifty planes to ferry its staff the huge distances between sites.

 
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