UPDATE 2-Cheniere Partners wins $3.4 bln in finance commitments

Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:55pm EDT

July 12 (Reuters) - Cheniere Energy Partners LP has received firm financing commitments of about $3.4 billion to build its planned liquefied natural gas project at Sabine Pass in Louisiana, the company said on Thursday.

The financial commitments move Cheniere one step closer to building its $5 billion dollar liquefied natural gas export project, which the Houston-based company said could be online as early as 2015.

Cheniere received regulatory approval in April to build the plant, which will liquefy U.S. natural gas for shipping overseas.

It will be the first project of its kind in the United States in nearly 50 years and comes as domestic gas production hits record highs thanks to prolific output from shale deposits across the country.

The company has secured firm supply deals with South Korea's state-owned gas buyer KOGAS, Britain's BG Group , India's GAIL and Spain's Gas Natural Fenosa. The deals, which showed firm interest from global buyers, were key to Cheniere securing financing.

Along with $2 billion in equity commitments for the project, Cheniere has so far raised $5.4 billion to build the first two liquefaction "trains" that turn the gas into liquid, the company said.

The company was still seeking $200 million in additional financing, and expected to close financing at the end of the month.

"We expect to reach a final investment decision...upon meeting all conditions precedent under the financial agreements, including, but not limited to, completion of the financing process," said Cheniere chief executive Charif Souki in a statement.

Cheniere Partners also said it had withdrawn a planned $750 million loan syndication and postponed the purchase of the Creole Trail Pipeline from its parent Cheniere Energy.

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