UPDATE 1-Eni to buy new exploration block in Pakistan

Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:22am EST

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MILAN, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Italy's Eni has strengthened its hand in Pakistan by agreeing to buy offshore gas acreage as the oil and gas major continues to channel cash into more profitable upstream activity.

In a statement on Thursday Eni said it had signed a deal with Pakistan and state oil company OGDCL to acquire 25 percent and operatorship of the offshore Indus Block G licence, located in Pakistan's Indus Basin.

Eni is the leading foreign producer in Pakistan with an equity output of 58,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed).

In September it announced a significant onshore gas discovery in a country which it is counting on as part of its strategy to develop assets and bring them to market rapidly.

Huge cost overruns and delays at Kashagan, the world's largest oil development, have raised questions about its ability to deliver large-scale projects on budget and on time.

Eni, the world's No. 7 oil company in terms of production, is selling non-core assets like gas transport group Snam and Portuguese energy group Galp Energia to focus on oil and gas exploration.

The company, which produced 1.7 million boed in 2011, has said it is looking to add more than 1.3 million boed of new production by 2022.

Over the past year, Eni has dispelled some of the scepticism about its profitability and growth potential by clinching a deal with Russia's Rosneft and scoring exploration successes in Norway and Mozambique.

The 7,500-square-kilometre block in Pakistan is "in ultra deep water of an underexplored and promising area offshore Pakistan", Eni said.

The consortium managing the block is composed of the two state companies OGDCL and Pakistan Petroleum, Eni and United Energy Pakistan Limited - each holding a 25 percent stake.

At 1409 GMT shares in Eni were down 0.17 percent while the European oil and gas index was down 0.3 percent. (Reporting By Stephen Jewkes; editing by Lisa Jucca and James Jukwey)

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