OMV, the Austrian oil company part-owned by Abu Dhabi, has sold a stake of around 9 per cent in the Nabucco West gas pipeline project to France's GDF Suez.
OMV sells 9% Nabucco stake to GDF Suez
The sale of the project intended to ship Caspian Sea gas to Europe adds a sixth partner to the consortium.The pipeline aims to bring as much as 31 billion cubic metres (1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas a year to Austria via Turkey and south eastern Europe by 2017.
The transaction follows OMV's move to acquire the stake from Germany's RWE, in a shareholder structure that has changed as the project has been downsized.
"Having GDF Suez as new partner for Nabucco West is another milestone for the project," Gerhard Roiss, OMV's chief executive, said in a statement.
"It proves that we are on the right way to provide Europe with more gas and to secure new sources of gas for the future."
The Shah Deniz consortium, led by BP and the Azeri state energy firm Socar, has said it will decide next month whether to select Nabucco West or the rival Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project to transport its gas to Europe.
The building of a pipeline is key to Europe's aim of reducing its dependence on Russian gas, and also to Azerbaijan's aim of diversifying its markets.
OMV gave no financial details for the GDF deal, which it said was subject to certain conditions and was expected to take place in the second half of this year.
The Nabucco chief executive Reinhard Mitschek said yesterday: "The entry of GDF Suez strengthens the shareholder structure of Nabucco significantly and paves the way to the French market.
"The industry expertise of GDF Suez as the operator of the largest gas transport network in Europe and their status as the second-largest buyer of natural gas in Europe are of immense advantage to the project. "GDF Suez is already very active in the Nabucco countries."
Partners in the Nabucco West pipeline now include BEH of Bulgaria, Turkey's Botas, FGSZ of Hungary, GDF Suez, OMV and Transgaz of Romania. Nabucco West is competing with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, known as TAP, for rights to export gas from the Shah Deniz field, which may hold 1.2 trillion cubic metres of fuel in Azerbaijan's part of the Caspian Sea.
The European Union wants to diversify supplies away from Russia, which provides a quarter of its natural gas.
*With Reuters and Bloomberg News