ONGC may consider bidding with PetroVietnam for BP field stake

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Oil & Natural Gas Corp., India's biggest energy exploration company, may consider bidding jointly with Vietnam Oil & Gas Group for partner BP Plc's stake in a natural gas field in Vietnam to secure fuel supplies.

The explorer is considering all options and hasn't taken a decision on bidding with PetroVietnam, as the company is known, Chairman R.S. Sharma said by telephone from Vietnam Thursday. Indian Oil Corp., the country's biggest state-owned refiner, and Oil India Ltd. may be brought in as partners, he said.

ONGC has a 45 percent stake in the venture operated by BP and is seeking to boost its share of gas from the field. BP, which is raising funds to pay for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, agreed July 20 to sell fields in the US, Canada and Egypt to Apache Corp. for $7 billion and plans to dispose of assets in Pakistan and Vietnam.

ONGC shares gained 0.4 percent to 1,276.75 rupees at 2:53 p.m. in Mumbai trading after declining as much as 1.1 percent. The stock has gained 8 percent this year compared with a 3 percent increase in the benchmark Sensitive Index.

Oil Minister Murli Deora, who is in Vietnam on an official visit, said Wednesday India would be happy to consider bidding for the stake that BP may offer. Sharma and R.S. Butola, managing director of ONGC Videsh Ltd., the explorer's overseas unit, are part of the delegation accompanying Deora, who said he would discuss the plan with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Thursday.

ONGC, based in New Delhi, is spearheading the South Asian nation's quest for energy resources overseas, competing with China for fields from Africa to Venezuela.

Oil spill fund

BP aims to raise about US$10 billion selling assets to feed a $20 billion fund for spill victims demanded by US President Barack Obama.

BP spokesman David Nicholas said the company has just informed the governments of the intention to sell the assets and won't comment on estimates of their value or potential buyers.

The Nam Con Son gas project in Vietnam is valued at $1.3 billion, the London-based company said on its website. BP's assets in Vietnam and Pakistan may be worth $1.7 billion, Jason Kenney, an analyst at ING Wholesale Banking in Edinburgh, said by telephone yesterday.

BP has a 35 percent share in Block 06.1 off the south Vietnamese coast, according to ONGC Videsh's website. The Indian company sold shares in the Lan Tay field in Vietnam to BP after winning the exploration license for the area in 1988.

The area started producing gas in January 2003. ONGC's share from the project was 1.848 billion cubic meters of gas in the year ended March 2009, according to the website. ONGC wholly owns two other offshore blocks in Vietnam, which don't produce oil or gas.

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