* Petrovietnam makes formal move for stakes in disputed water
* Barclays Capital is adviser of deal
* TNK Vietnam gets investment license, LUKOIL to drill 3 wells early 2012
HANOI, Oct 31 (Reuters) - State oil and gas group Petrovietnam has bid for $1.5 billion of ConocoPhillips oil assets in the South China Sea, a senior Petrovietnam official said, its first formal move for the stakes in the disputed waters.
The Hanoi-based group plans to do its utmost to acquire the assets, Nguyen Tien Dung, Petrovietnam’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, told Reuters on Monday.
“The investment is in our country, so we are determined, with our largest possible efforts, to buy,” Dung said.
Barclays Capital is the adviser for the bid, a source with knowledge of the deal said.
ConocoPhillips owns a 23.25 percent stake in a complex of four fields in block 15-1.
The three oilfields and one gas field include the Su Tu Den and Su Tu Vang oilfields and two other fields that have not begun operations, according to Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC), one of the owners of the block.
Petrovietnam already owns half of block 15-1. KNOC has 14.2 percent, South Korea’s SK Corp 9 percent and Monaco’s Geopetrol 3.5 percent.
A KNOC official said last week that the South Korean state-run firm had made no decision yet on whether or not to consider buying ConocoPhillips’ stake and will decide based on the price made by the successful bidder.
The U.S. company also owns 36 percent of the Rang Dong oilfield in block 15-2 in the Cuu Long basin and 16.3 percent in the Nam Con Son gas pipeline project.
In July, Petrovietnam’s CEO said the company may buy the ConocoPhillips oil and gas interests in the South China Sea to help protect Hanoi’s territorial claims, adding that the U.S. energy firm may sell the assets as it was scaling back its presence, possibly as part of a restructuring.
Energy assets are a touchy subject in the disputed waters. U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp recently said it had discovered hydrocarbons in August off central Vietnam, in an area also claimed by China.
China on Monday warned foreign energy firms against exploration in the disputed South China Sea.
Dung said that Russian oil and gas firms are also expanding their presence in the Southeast Asia country, with three operating firms — Gazprom , Zarubezhneft and LUKOIL — while TNK-BP is now in the process of taking over assets newly acquired from its shareholder BP Plc .
“This is a good trend,” he added.
British-Russian joint venture TNK-BP will make its official presence in Vietnam within a few weeks, said Dung.
TNK-BP said on Oct. 19 its subsidiary, TNK Vietnam, had received the investment license from Vietnam’s Ministry of Investment and Trade to operate offshore gas Block 06.1, part of the Nam Con Son Integrated Gas to Power Project.
“Our company sees Vietnam as a very prospective market and will continue to review opportunities for deepening our presence in the country,” Maxim Barsky, the deputy chief executive of TNK-BP who will leave his post on Nov. 1 after overseeing its foreign expansion campaign, said in the statement.
Russia’s third-largest oil company said it had acquired from BP a 35 percent stake in the offshore gas and condensate production Block 06.1, which contains the Lan Tay and Lan Do gas condensate fields.
Russia’s No.2 crude producer LUKOIL recently said it had acquired the Hanoi Trough 02 block offshore the northern city of Hai Phong from Quad Energy.
The firm would drill three wells by early next year and 12 locations could have promising oil deposits, Aleksander Nekhaev, Director of Lukoil Overseas Vietnam, said in Hanoi.
Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas company, has established a joint venture with Petrovietnam — Vietgazprom — which now explores five fields offshore Vietnam, the joint venture said on its website (www.vgp.zargaz.ru).
Vietsovpetro, a joint venture between Russian state-run Zarubezhneft and Petrovietnam, has said it will extend cooperation to 20 more years, though its annual oil production will dip to a steady level of 6.0-6.1 million tonnes from next year, slightly below the expected 2011 output of 6.31 million tonnes (126,719 bpd).