NEW DELHI - A consortium of Indian state-run companies has bid to acquire stakes in oil-sands assets owned by ConocoPhillips in Canada that are valued around $5 billion, senior executives at Oil & Natural Gas Corp. and Oil India Ltd. said Monday.
India's state-run oil and gas companies are scouting for opportunities overseas to cut their exposure to the country's highly regulated sector and as part of a government strategy to secure energy supplies for Asia's third-largest economy, which imports four-fifths of its crude oil needs.
The acquisition of new energy resources, such as oil sands and shale gas, will help the Indian companies diversify their portfolios, which are focused on conventional maturing assets.
"We have bid along with Oil India and Indian Oil Corp.," an executive at ONGC Videsh Ltd., the wholly owned overseas investment unit of ONGC, told reporters Monday. An executive at explorer Oil India separately said that the bid was placed at the end of July.
Both executives declined to be named. Indian Oil Corp., the third consortium partner, didn't immediately respond to e-mail queries seeking comment. ConocoPhillips spokesman Davy Kong said in an emailed response that the company doesn't comment on market rumors.
ConocoPhillips aims to sell about 50% of its stake in half a dozen producing, developing and emerging oil sands assets, the website of investment banking firm Scotia Waterous, a division of Scotia Capital, showed. Scotia Waterous had put the details of the assets on its website in January.
ConocoPhillips in late April became a pure exploration-and-production company, while its refining, midstream and chemicals segments were spun off into a new company as part of a restructuring plan aimed at improving finances and boosting shareholder value.
At a press conference Monday, ONGC Videsh Managing Director DK Sarraf declined to comment on a bid for ConcoPhillips, but said, "The market (for mergers and acquisitions) is good. There is a lot of action in North America, Canada as most of the activity has shifted there due to huge exploitable discoveries."
ONGC Videsh, which produced 8.75 million metric tons of oil and equivalent gas in the financial year ended March 31, plans to invest $20 billion to realize its target of a sevenfold increase in oil and gas output from overseas assets by 2030.
ONGC in March signed an initial agreement with ConocoPhillips to screen opportunities for joint exploration and development of shale-gas reserves in India and North America and deep-water blocks along India's east coast.
Oil India, which has set aside 70 billion rupees ($1.31 billion) for acquisitions, said in May it was in talks to buy stakes in ConocoPhillips' oil sand assets in Canada, Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s Mississippi Lime formation in the U.S. and the Gabon assets of France's Etablissements Maurel et Prom SA.
Indian Oil group, the country's largest refiner by capacity, wants to acquire oil producing assets abroad to secure supplies for its expanding refining capacity.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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