Kazakhstan wants to acquire 10 percent of the Karachaganak oil and gas project from a group of foreign investors, state firm KazMunaiGas said on Thursday, as the country moves to tighten control over its energy resources.
KazMunaiGas President Kairgeldy Kabyldin said the state oil and gas company had made the proposal to a consortium of four foreign investors led by Britain's BG Group and Italian energy firm ENI.
"We have stated our wishes to acquire a 10 percent stake if there are acceptable commercial conditions. This is our proposal," Kabyldin told reporters.
Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest economy, has long sought a stake in the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating Group (KPO) and has accused Kazakhstan's biggest gas project of tax evasion. The group says its operations comply with Kazakh law.
BG and ENI each own 32.5 percent while U.S. oil major Chevron has a 20 percent stake. Russia's largest non-state oil firm, LUKOIL, is also a shareholder.
The government also wants to strip projects such as Karachaganak, which had been accused of overstating costs by $1.3 billion, of immunity to tax changes as it increases tax rates in the energy and mining sectors.
In March, Kazakhstan's financial police accused Karachaganak of illegally earning $708 million in 2008 by producing more oil and gas than originally agreed with the state.
The group has denied wrongdoing.
BG Chief Financial Officer Ashley Almanza, who is leading the company's discussions with the Kazakh government, declined to comment specifically on the talks.
But he told a conference in Almaty he was confident any problems related to energy projects in Kazakhstan could be resolved. "It's almost inevitable that differences of opinion will arise from time to time," he said. "We remain confident that these differences can be resolved through open and constructive dialogue."
Kabyldin said he was not aware of the consortium members' reaction to the proposal by KazMunaiGas. He declined to say how much the state company would be willing to pay for a stake.
KazMunaiGas Chairman Timur Kulibayev said the price would be subject to negotiation.
Like other large energy deals, the Karachaganak contract was signed in the 1990s when Kazakhstan was desperate for more foreign investment while its economy shook off the legacy of 70 years of Soviet rule.
Analysts have said the government might be hoping to gain its stake without paying, possibly agreeing to drop its tax and cost claims in return. In April, a source close to talks said the state wanted to acquire up to 30 percent in the consortium.
The Karachaganak developments mirror the case of Kashagan, another oil field developed by foreign energy majors, where the government acquired a stake after accusing the consortium of environmental violations, delays and cost overruns.
Separately, Kabyldin said during the conference that KazMunaiGas -- the parent company of London-listed KazMunaiGas Exploration and Production -- planned to invest about $20 billion in various projects by 2015.
ReutersLast Mod: 03 Haziran 2010, 22:50