MELBOURNE, March 28 Oil Search Ltd
launched a legal fight on Friday contesting French oil giant
Total SA's purchase of a 40 percent stake in Papua New
Guinea's biggest undeveloped gas field.
Oil Search recently bought a 23 percent stake in the Elk and
Antelope fields, controlled by another PNG company, InterOil
Corp, which this week signed a final agreement selling
down its stake to Total.
Oil Search said on Friday it had filed a notice of dispute
to InterOil regarding Total's acquisition. The company's
investor relations head was not immediately available to comment
on the grounds for the dispute.
After buying into the fields, Oil Search had expected to
have pre-emptive rights over the stake being sold to Total. The
PNG oil and gas producer is hoping to hold sway over how the
fields are developed.
Oil Search wants the Elk-Antelope gas to supply an expansion
of the $19 billion PNG LNG project, led by ExxonMobil Corp
, while InterOil and Total want to build a competing
standalone LNG project.
Oil Search is a 29 percent stakeholder in the PNG LNG
project, which is due to start exporting around July.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Stephen Coates)