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In the papers today - 19 December

France's SNCF will attempt to raise the world speed record for a conventional train to at least 342mph in the New Year - smashing their own 16-year-old record. Tests with a new generation high-speed train à grande vitesse (TGV) will attempt to push the speed record for steel wheels on steel rails to at least 550kph, possibly even to 570kph - The Independent
Norway will create a gas export colossus with the merger of Statoil and Norsk Hydro. The firms will take a commanding position in the Northern European gas market and become the largest offshore operation in the world. The two groups said yesterday that they would combine their oil and gas businesses in a £15.4bn deal - The TimesInternational rating agency Fitch Ratings said Tuesday a mooted deal on the acquisition by Gazprom of a controlling stake in the vast Sakhalin II energy project in the country's Far East would certainly benefit Russia's energy giant, but could have a credit impact on Royal Dutch Shell. Project operator Sakhalin Energy, in which the British-Dutch major holds a 55% stake and Japan's Mitsui and Mitsubishi own 25%, and 20%, respectively, is developing the $22 billion oil and liquefied natural gas project under a production-sharing agreement with the Russian government, signed in 1994. Fitch said Shell's stake in Sakhalin II is likely to decline to 25% from 55%, while Mitsui and Mitsubishi would both reduce their stakes to 15 % and 10% respectively, with Gazprom acquiring effective control of the venture. - Novosti

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