French EDF could take stake in Russia's South Stream

MOSCOW, Sept 15 (Reuters) - France's EDF EDF.PA could take a 10 percent stake in Russian Gazprom's GAZP.MM South Stream pipeline, giving France a role in both new Russian gas links to Europe, Kommersant newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper cited industry sources as saying Gazprom and EDF would soon sign a memorandum of understanding. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin discussed the project with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon when they met on Monday.

“This theme was discussed. The discussion was constructive,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said without elaborating.

South Stream will be built under the Black Sea and is seen as the main competitor to the EU- and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline, which aims to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia by securing gas from the Caspian region.

Russia, which supplies a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, wants to build gas supply routes quickly to bypass Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states after disputes with Kiev over transit payments in recent years disrupted flows.

Another French company, GDF Suez GSZ.PA, is planning to take a 9 percent stake in Russia's Nord Stream, a pipeline which will go to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Gazprom and EDF were not immediately available for comment.

French companies have been among the most active in clinching energy partnership deals with Russia and political ties between the two countries are warm.

The landmark deal was Russia's decision to allow France's Total TOTF.PA to take a 25 percent stake in a company that will develop one of Russia's and world's largest gas deposits, Shtokman.

(Editing by Lin Noueihed)

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