LNG Japan Looking to Increase Stake in Indonesia Gas Project

LNG Japan Corp. hopes to raise its stake in the Muturi natural gas production sharing contract in Indonesia's West Papua province from the current 5%, the company said Monday.

"We are aiming to increase our share in the Muturi block" - one of three gas blocks in the Tangguh gas project, a company official said in response to a local report on the acquisition plan.

LNG Japan Corp. - a joint venture between Sumitomo Corp. and Nissho Iwai Corp. - hopes to buy part or all of a 50% share that BG Group is selling in the Muturi block.

However, the other stakeholders in the block are reported to also have shown interest in purchasing BG Group's 50% share. LNG Japan said it is in talks with BG Group and another stakeholder in the project.

In December, BG Group signed a contract to sell the 50% stake to Mitsui Indonesia Gas, a unit of Mitsui & Co. for $236 million in cash. However, the contract was conditional on the three existing stakeholders, including LNG Japan, giving up their preferential rights to purchase the stake.

"Both Sumitomo and Nissho Iwai have shared the same understanding that they hope to expand their stakes in the Tangguh gas development project," the official said.

China National Offshore Oil Co. holds a 44% share in the Muturi block through a unit, and BP Muturi Holdings owns 1%.

Led by BP, the Tangguh gas project is expected to begin commercial production in 2007. Annual gas output is estimated at 10 million tons on a liquefied natural gas equivalent basis.