* Minister says Kovykta licence likely to be handed to state
* Says the government to tender the licence later
ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 18 (Reuters) - Russia's natural resources minister Yuri Trutnev said TNK-BP's TNBPI.RTS licence to develop the giant Kovykta gas field will "most likely" be handed over to the state.
Trutnev said on Friday the government will later tender the licence, currently held by RUSIA Petroleum, a fully-owned unit of BP's BP.L joint Russian venture TNK-BP.
Earlier this month, TNK-BP said RUSIA Petroleum had filed for bankruptcy after it had failed to sell the field to Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom GAPZP.MM [ID:nLDE65126N].
TNK-BP had first announced that it would withdraw from the Kovykta project, in Russia’s Siberian Irkutsk region, in 2007 after coming under pressure from government officials who said the company was failing to meet output targets.
TNK-BP, which has held the licence for about 16 years, agreed to sell Kovykta to Gazprom for around $1 billion to cover initial investment costs but the deal was never finalised and talks of the sale have since been suspended.
After TNK-BP announced it would push its Kovykta operator into bankruptcy, Gazprom reiterated that it would not need gas from the field anytime in the near future.
The global economic downturn and the U.S. shale gas boom have triggered a glut in the market and have lowered demand for Russian gas in Europe, the country’s main exports market. (Reporting by Daria Korsunskaya; Writing in Moscow by Jessica Bachman; Editing by Lidia Kelly and Jon Loades-Carter)
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