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ONGC taps Citi for $3-bn Ghana deal

July 21, 2009 09:55 IST

India's leading oil producer Oil & Natural Gas Corporation has hired Citigroup to advise it on a bid for Kosmos Energy's stake in an oil field in Ghana in a deal that could be worth between $3 billion and $5 billion, sources have said.

Private equity-backed Kosmos, which has received a total of $800 million in financing from Blackstone and Warburg Pincus, has hired Standard Chartered and Barclays Plc to sell its stakes in the offshore Jubilee oil field.

A potential sale of Kosmos' stake in the Jubilee field is being closely watched as the asset is one of the largest oil finds in West Africa in the past decade.

"ONGC has been bidding for overseas blocks for almost a decade," said Kumar Manish, associate director, KPMG.

"To me, in terms of risk, Ghana is better than some of the other countries that have huge oil reserves," he added. "India being a big-ticket oil importer needs to secure supplies and has to go to countries that have reserves."

All three sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter. Citigroup declined comment when contacted by Reuters. ONGC representatives were not immediately available for comment.

ONGC is not Asia's only bidder for Kosmos's coveted stake. China's top offshore oil and gas producer, CNOOC Ltd, has hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on its bid for the stake, a source told Reuters last month.

Other bidders could include global energy players BP Plc, Shell Oil, Exxon Mobil Corp and Italy's ENI SpA, analysts and dealmakers say. Texas-based Kosmos has interests across Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Morocco and Nigeria, including the Jubilee Field in Ghana's deep waters.

Deadline extension

On Friday, the bid deadline for the Jubilee stake was extended and another date will be announced within the next 30 days, two sources familiar with the matter said. The deadline extension gives bidders extra time to digest major developments earlier this month.

Kosmos recently secured a $750 million loan facility to fund development of the discoveries. It also gained approval from the Ghanaian government for a phase-one plan of development for the field.

Any bid would need to be vetted by the Ghanaian government, and the extension allows the Ghanaian government to be more involved in the auction before a winner is picked. Moreover, Ghana's National Petroleum CorpĀ is also interested in buying the stake.

"The government has indicated and has informed the partners that should Kosmos want to sell, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation would be interested in buying," Kwabena Donkor, Ghana's deputy energy minister, told Reuters on the sidelines of an African energy conference in early July. Jubilee is predicted to hold 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The entire field is valued at around $15 billion.

Kosmos's partners in Jubilee include London-listed Tullow Oil plc and US oil producer Anadarko Petroleum Corp. One source said the Indian giant was looking to partner an international oil firm in its bid for the stake.

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