Surgutneftegaz Wins Awarded Talakan License

Surgutneftegaz was awarded a license for the huge east Siberian Talakan oilfield, after the 900-million-barrel field was stripped from Russian major Yukos.

Yukos, which saw Talakan as a key element in plans for a major pipeline to China, dismissed the ruling by the Yakutiya regional arbitration court as "legal nonsense." Yukos lost control of the field after subsidiary Sakhaneftegaz failed to pay $501 million promised in its winning bid during the original auction in 2001.

"The court has order the Ministry of Natural issue Surgutneftegaz a license to exploit the central block of the Talakan oilfield," the court said in its decision.

"It is clear that Surgutneftegaz came second among the four participants in the (field's) auction," the court said. "It was preceded only by Sakhaneftegaz, which offered a bonus payment that was clearly excessive and which it knew it could not pay."

A second auction, which attracted interest from virtually all Russia's main oil firms as well as multinational Total, was stalled after the resources ministry proposed a $900 million starting price.

Officials instead awarded a one-year license to Surgutneftgaz, which came second in the original auction with a $61 million offer.

The ruling means the firm will now receive a full license.

Sakhaneftegaz said they would appeal the court's decision.