ONGC Videsh Eyeing Equity Stakes in Overseas Cos

NEW DELHI, Jul 24, 2007 (Dow Jones Commodities News)

ONGC Videsh Ltd., a wholly-owned unit of state run Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY), hopes to buy stakes in overseas oil and gas exploration companies, the parent company's chairman said Tuesday.

However, ONGC Chairman R. S. Sharma declined to comment on a media report that ONGC Videsh is considering buying U.S.-based Transmeridian Exploration Inc. (TMY).

"OVL (ONGC Videsh) keeps looking at various opportunities and this (Transmeridian) could be one of them. I can neither confirm nor deny the report," Sharma, also ONGC's managing director, told reporters on the sidelines of an industry event.

On Monday, the Press Trust of India reported that ONGC Videsh, the overseas investment arm of ONGC, was mulling a takeover of US-listed oil firm Transmeridian, which controls 211 million barrels of reserves in Kazakhstan.

The company has completed preliminary due diligence on Transmeridian and is expected to decide soon, said the PTI report, quoting industry sources.

Houston-based Transmeridian has a 100% interest in CaspiNeft, which holds the license to the South Alibek field in Kazakhstan. The field is expected to produce 1 million barrels of oil per day, the PTI report said.

Lorrie Olivier, chief executive of Transmeridian, told analysts in a conference call on May 15 that both major Western companies and Asian companies had shown an interest in acquiring Transmeridian.

"One characteristic is they're all interested in doing business in this part of the world. They are there now and want to be involved in that part of the world," Olivier said, according to a transcript of the conference call from news content provider Voxant.

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