* PetroChina, Exxon Mobil, Shell seen as possible suitors
* First round bids due March 14
By Denny Thomas
HONG KONG, March 5 U.S. oil and gas explorer
Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Indian billionaire Venugopal
Dhoot have launched the auction of a 20 percent stake in a
Mozambique gas field that could fetch $4.5 billion, sources
familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The Rovuma offshore field is drawing major interest after
recent discoveries boosted Mozambique's gas reserves to around
150 trillion cubic feet, enough to supply number one importer
Japan for 35 years. The east African country is expected to
compete with Australia and Qatar as a major provider of
liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia in the future.
PetroChina and Exxon Mobil Corp are among suitors
expected to submit indicative proposals, sources with direct
knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Royal Dutch Shell PLC
, which last year missed out on a stake in the same
field when it lost a takeover battle for Cove Energy Plc, is
also interested, they added.
Shell and Exxon declined to comment. PetroChina officials
were not available for comment.
Dhoot, who controls consumer electronics to mobile-phone
services conglomerate Videocon Group, is leading the process and
has hired two investment banks to handle the sale, the sources
First round bids are due on March 14 after an information
memorandum on the sale was sent to potential bidders in early
February, one of the sources added.
Anadarko CEO Al Walker last month told an earnings
conference call that the company was looking to sell a 10
percent interest in the block, taking the firm's stake to 26.5
Anadarko, the project operator, has the highest interest,
while Japan's Mitsui & Co Ltd is the second-biggest
holder with a 20 percent stake. Together with ENI SpA
which owns an adjacent field and is cooperating on building gas
liquefaction facilities, Anadarko hopes to ship out first LNG in
Mozambique has a competitive advantage over America and
European countries in supplying LNG to gas-hungry Asian markets
due to its proximity, one reason why global energy majors are
expected to take active interest in the sale, sources say.
Last year, Thailand state oil company PTT Energy
trumped Shell to take control of Cove Energy and its 8.5 percent
stake in the field for $1.9 billion. On a similar valuation the
20 percent stake on offer could fetch about $4.5 billion,
Videocon is seeking about $2.5-$3 billion for its 10 pct
stake, though sources warned buyers are unlikely to pay a huge
premium over what PTT paid.
"PTT paid what was a good price, but to get to a $3 billion
price tag is difficult," one person familiar with the process
A spokesman for Anadarko did not immediately respond to a
request for comment on Monday, while Dhoot declined to comment.
Dhoot paid $75 million for the Rovuma 1 stake in 2008.
India state-owned refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd
owns another 10 percent stake in gas project.