HSBC tapped to sell BP's stake in Vietnam gas project

BP has tapped HSBC to sell its stake in the Nam Con Son gas project in Vietnam, as it scrambles to hive off $30 billion of assets to pay for the clean-up of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, three sources said.

The British oil giant, which is on a campaign to sell a host of assets from Pakistan to Egypt, said last week it is seeking a buyer for its stake in the Nam Con Son gas project offshore southern Ho Chi Minh City, worth $966 million by one estimate.

India's state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp and Petrovietnam -- both partners with BP in the Nam Con Son project -- are expected to submit a joint formal offer within weeks to buy BP's stake.

"The formal auction should get underway in two weeks," an Asia-based resources banker who has advised oil giants on outbound deals told Reuters.

He added that a pre-emptive bid by ONGC and Petrovietnam will be tough to beat, given BP's desperation, and Hanoi's insistence that BP's partners be given first priority.

ONGC has a 45 percent share in Block 6.1 in the Nam Con Son basin, operated by BP, which has a 35 percent stake. The remaining 20 percent is owned by state-run Petrovietnam.

BP's stake includes interest in the Lan Tay and Lan Do gas fields, the Nam Con Son pipeline and the Phu My power generation project.

Any bids from Chinese oil firms such as Sinopec will face a difficult battle given tense territorial disputes in the South China Sea, some bankers say.

The stake is also likely to draw interest from Thailand's PTTEP, and Malaysia's Petronas, among other Asian bidders, one of the sources said.

The sources were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and declined to be named. A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for HSBC declined to comment.

BP's planned asset sales are aimed at helping it pay for its liabilities and create a leaner company with the potential for higher growth. The company agreed to a $7 billion sale of oil and gas fields to Apache Corp last week.

[Source: By Joseph Chaney and Quentin Webb, Reuters, Hong Kong and London, 29Jul10]

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