March 6, 2013 / 3:21 PM / 5 years ago

Enel in talks to acquire stake in TAP gas pipeline-source

SOFIA, March 6 (Reuters) - Italy’s biggest power utility Enel is still in talks to acquire a stake in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project that aims to pump Azeri gas to Europe, a source familiar with the process said on Wednesday.

“Talks are ongoing,” the source, who declined to be named told Reuters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Sofia.

Last October, ENEL’s chief executive Fulvio Conti said the company was keen on taking a stake in TAP.

The source did not elaborate on the size of the stake in discussion. Last year an industry source close to TAP said Enel was interested in taking a 10-20 percent stake.

TAP’s External Affairs Director Michael Hoffmann declined to comment, but said the pipeline remains open to new shareholders.

TAP is competing with the Nabucco West project to carry 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas per year from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II gas field to Europe after 2018 and reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas.

TAP is proposing a route from Turkey through Albania and Greece into Italy, while Nabucco West offers to ship gas from Turkey’s border with Bulgaria to Austria.

At present TAP’s shareholders are Swiss energy company Axpo , Norway’s Statoil and E.ON Ruhrgas of Germany.

Its rival Nabucco West’s shareholders include Austria’s OMV , Hungary’s MOL, Turkey’s Botas, Romania’s Transgaz and Bulgaria’s BEH.

The Shah Deniz consortium, which comprises BP, Statoil, Azeri energy company SOCAR and Total, has a 50-percent equity option in both rival projects. It is expected to choose one of the two pipeline contenders by mid-2013. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by James Jukwey)

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