BP In Talks to Sell Stakes in Venezuela Oil Projects

(Dow Jones Newswires), July 29, 2010

BP is in talks to sell its stakes in oil projects in Venezuela to its Russian joint venture TNK-BP part of a $30 billion asset disposal program designed to help it meet the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a statement, TNK-BP said it supported BP's intent to "strategically realign its asset base in Venezuela and is actively evaluating the opportunity to participate in the assets." It said it viewed it as a chance to expand internationally and increase its presence in Venezuela, where it already has a number of investments.

The U.K. oil major said earlier this week that it planned to raise between $25 billion and $30 billion over the next 18 months in asset sales, after reporting a record $17 billion loss in the second quarter related to the costs of cleaning up the Gulf oil spill.

Last week, the company sold assets in the U.S., Canada and Egypt to Apache in a deal worth $7 billion. It has also announced plans to sell its positions in Pakistan and Vietnam.

BP has minority stakes in two joint ventures with Venezuela's state-owned oil company PdVSA, Petroperija and Boqueron, and is a partner in Petromonagas, which produces 110,000 barrels a day. The assets are estimated to be worth up to $1 billion in total.

The international oil majors' appetite to work in Venezuela has dwindled sharply in recent years amid pressure on foreign investors from the country's fiery leftist president, Hugo Chavez.

The pressure came to a head in 2007, when Venezuela nationalized several oil projects operated by international partners. Some Western oil companies, including BP, agreed to turn over a controlling interest to PdVSA, while others such as Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips refused and left the country.

TNK-BP, a 50-50 joint venture between BP and AAR, which is controlled by four Soviet-born billionaires, already has a presence in Venezuela. In 2008 it signed a deal with PdVSA to jointly study a block in the Orinoco heavy crude belt, which the government in Caracas says holds the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world. TNK-BP is also part of a consortium of five Russian companies that is partnering with PdVSA to develop the Junin 6 oil field, which is also in the Orinoco belt.

A person familiar with TNK-BP said the company is particularly interested in acquiring BP assets that were in countries with which Russia enjoys warm diplomatic relations and where it had existing investments. Venezuela scored on both counts, he said.

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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