Kazakhstan offers stake in state oil firm to Shell: sources

ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund has offered Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L the chance to buy a significant minority stake in national oil company KazMunayGaz KMGZ.KZ (KMG) to make its planned flotation more attractive to foreign investors, two sources familiar with the talks told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: Workers carry out maintenance at an oil well on oilfields operated by a subsidiary of the KazMunayGas Exploration Production JSC in Kyzylorda region, southern Kazakhstan, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov /File Photo

State-owned KMG is the central Asian nation’s third largest oil producer and has stakes in all major Kazakh projects including the giant Kashagan oil field. It is Shell’s partner in several joint ventures.

Samruk-Kazyna, the Kazakh sovereign fund, plans to float KMG next year as part of the government’s privatization program.

The fund owns a 90 percent stake in the company and Kazakhstan’s central bank holds the remaining 10 percent.

The central bank took a stake after effectively printing $4 billion to help KMG pay off its debt after the oil price crash.

A source close to KMG said Shell has been offered the chance to buy a stake of up to 20 percent, which could include the central bank’s stake.

“The talks are under way,” the source said.

Another source, who is close to the government, said the offer was for a 10 percent stake.

“We think they (Shell) could become a strategic partner, this would increase the company’s (KMG’s) value ahead of the IPO,” the second source said.

The sources gave no estimates for the potential value of any deal.

The wealth fund is expected to retain a controlling stake in KMG but has not said what size stake will be floated.

Samruk-Kazyna forwarded questions about the Shell offer to KMG which in turn said it “cooperated and planned to cooperate with a number of international companies on different projects” but declined to provide any further comment.

Kazakhstan’s central bank could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Shell declined to comment on the matter. The Anglo-Dutch company has stakes in some of Kazakhstan’s biggest oil projects including Kashagan and Karachaganak as well as the Caspian Pipeline Consortium which ships Kazakh oil to the Black Sea.

Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Susan Fenton