* Assets could be worth as much as $500 mln
* Reliance, Essar decline to comment
* BP plans to sell Namibia, Malawi, Tanzania and Botswana
(Adds details, background)
By Nidhi Verma and Pratish Narayanan
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, July 28 BP Plc (BP.L) (BP.N)
is in talks with India's Reliance Industries (RELI.BO) and
Essar Group to sell its African retail assets that could be
worth as much as $500 million, four sources with direct
knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
It was not immediately known whether BP was showing the
African assets to other potential buyers.
BP plans to sell $30 billion of assets over the next 18
months to cover costs related to the worst oil spill in U.S.
Reliance Industries, India's largest listed conglomerate,
declined to comment, while a spokesman for steel-to-shipping
conglomerate Essar said "We don't comment on speculations."
BP intends to sell its marketing business in Namibia,
Malawi, Tanzania and Botswana and focus on South Africa and
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance, whose
interests include petrochemicals, refining, oil and gas
exploration, and retail, is expanding its presence overseas by
investing in new areas such as shale gas. [ID:nSGE66P07T]
The Essar Group, controlled by billionaire brothers Shashi
and Ravi Ruia, is also nursing ambitious expansion plans and
recently raised $1.95 billion through an initial public
offering of its energy and power businesses in London ESSR.L.
In September 2007, Reliance acquired Gulf Africa Petroleum
Corp (GAPCO), an east African oil retailer, to gain access to
the rapidly growing economies of the region and a growing
demand for petroleum products.
"Reliance is looking into this opportunity as it has a
presence in the African continent through GAPCO," one of the
All the sources declined to be named as they were not
authorised to speak to the media.
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.
India's state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp
(ONGC.BO) and state-backed Petrovietnam are expected to submit
a joint formal offer within weeks to buy BP's (BP.L) stake in
the Nam Con Son gas project in Vietnam, India's oil secretary,
S. Sundareshan said on Tuesday. [ID:nSGE66Q0G9]
(Editing by Surojit Gupta)