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India ups stake as African resource scramble heats up

AFRICA has never been at the centre of such attention since the European powers divided the continent in the 19th century. However, recent oil and gas discoveries there promise a renewed scramble – this time from Asian state-owned oilies, with two of India’s state-owned companies poised to make Asia’s single largest investment in Africa. <b>By Gomati Jagadeesan</b>

Staff Reporter
India ups stake as African resource scramble heats up

The latest block up for grabs is a 20% stake in the Anadarko Petroleum-held Rovuma-1 gas field offshore Mozambique. While US oil and gas explorer Anadarko is looking to sell 10% of its stake, India’s Videocon Industries is planning to offload its entire 10% stake.

The bidding process closed mid-March and press reports suggest the stake received huge international interest, including from Royal Dutch Shell, which last year lost a bid to buy London-listed Cove Energy’s 8% stake in the same field to Thailand’s PTTEP.

While Shell is seen to be trying its luck once again, it has emerged that India’s state-backed Oil and Natural Gas Corp and Oil India are the leading joint bidders for the Anadarko-Videocon stake.

Deal observers say the 20% stake in the Rovuma-1 offshore block could be worth $5 billion to $6 billion. A successful bid by the Indian duo would make it the largest Asian investment in Africa in five years.

While many say the valuation is not cheap, the deal dovetails into India’s growing ambitions to import more liquefied natural gas to meet its burgeoning domestic demand.

Mozambique is estimated to have 250 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, according to data from the country’s state-owned oil exploration company. Rovuma-1 itself is estimated to hold 70 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is considered to be more than Libya’s proven deposits.

The project could become one of the largest-ever LNG developments to not have an energy supermajor at its helm.

It has a planned LNG capacity of 20 million tonnes per annum, with five trains envisioned, and may become the second largest project after Ras Laffan in Qatar, which has ExxonMobil as a partner.

The Indian interest follows a spate of Asian state-owned company stake acquisitions in Africa spurred by a national interest to secure energy supplies.

Any Indian buy would mark the third time in less than a year that an Asian state-owned company has signed a deal. Most recently, China National Petroleum Corporation made its biggest foreign investment, paying Italian oil major ENI $US4.2 billion for a share in the nearby gas field dubbed Area 4.

While this is the first time an Asian state backed company has taken an interest in an LNG stake, with CNPC holding 20% of the block, Asian companies collectively hold 24% of LNG projects in Africa.

India seems to be following China’s lead and is joining a chorus of Asian majors joining the race to secure African resources.

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