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Indian oil companies are hungry for deals

Last updated on: December 9, 2012 09:57 IST

Indian oil companies are hungry for deals

Faced with soaring demand, stagnant output at home and a need to diversify from Iranian crude imports lost to Western sanctions, Indian oil companies are hungry for deals like Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's ( ONGC's) Kashagan buy that promise supplies sooner rather than later. 

State-run ONGC Videsh has agreed to pay about $5 billion for 8.4 per cent of the Kashagan field in Kazakhstan, the world's largest oilfield discovery in four decades - which could boost its output by about 16 per cent within a year. 

The deal adds to a stable of assets that span some of the trickiest territories in the world - Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya among them - accumulated as parent ONGC struggled with domestic output.

But it's a drop in the ocean for the world's fourth-biggest crude importer - it buys in 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) - where the energy gap triggers constant power cuts.

Asia's third-largest economy plans to hit eight-per cent growth in 2014-15 and by 2030 that could lift it to be third-largest in the world and also the number three energy consumer, according to BP.

Oil supplies have become more urgent as Western sanctions over nuclear projects squeeze Iran, once India's second-biggest supplier. India's imports from Tehran slipped by nearly a fifth to 257,000 bpd in April-September. 

"Our priority is to look for discovered, developed and producing assets which give us production growth immediately," T K Anantha Kumar, head of finance for Oil India, the country's other state-run explorer, said. 

While not all the oil bought overseas turns up in domestic refineries, it can give companies a stake in the global crude trade, enhancing their flexibility for supplies and potentially helping profits. 

Indian companies will face sharp competition for these assets, however, from Asian rivals Japan and China - also major clients of Iran and facing their own demand challenges, the former because of nuclear power plant closures. 

With all but two of Japan's reactors idled and the government set on reducing reliance on atomic power after the Fukushima disaster, Japan's energy explorers are on a quest for upstream assets overseas, often with strong state support. 

Should ONGC complete the purchase of the Kashagan stake - existing partners in the project have a right of first refusal on it - it could be working alongside Japan's biggest energy explorer, Inpex, which has a 7.56 percent share.

Photographs: Reuters.

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