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Spanish company eyes UK stake in Indian gas firm

10th April 2012

UK share in major Indian gas company fought over by Spanish and Indian bidders respectively

Share in Indian gas company worth USD 900m could be sealed by May

Spanish utility, Gas Natural Fenosa is in talks with BG Group Plc to buy the UK oil and gas company's 65 per cent stake in India's Gujarat Gas, Reuters reported.

The deal is valued at about USD 900m and could be finalised by bidders by May. The Indian unit of BG announced its intention to sell its stake in Gujarat Gas last November.

Fenosa will need to fight off competition from a three-member consortium of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd and Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GSPC); the only other bidder in talks on buying BG's stake.

Germany's biggest utility, E.ON AG, UK-based private equity firm Actis, and India's Adani group and Torrent group had been among the initial bidders for the BG stake, but dropped out given stiff valuations.

While the Spanish utility is likely to have bid close to the market price, the Indian consortium has valued the stake at a discount, a source said.

BG's 65 per cent stake in Gujarat Gas is valued at about USD 700m at the current market price. The company acquiring the BG holding will have to make a mandatory open offer for an additional stake, valuing the total deal at about USD 900m.

The Spanish utility has a wide presence in Europe and North Africa and has been looking to expand internationally, mostly in Latin America. It currently has no presence in India.

Gujarat Gas, set up in 1980, supplies piped gas to 317,000 domestic and industrial customers and compressed natural gas to 144,000 users, mostly across Surat, Bharuch and Valsad in the western state of Gujarat.

 The company also operates a 3,700-km (2,300-mile) gas pipeline network.

 BG, which acquired control of the western India-focused gas distribution company in 1997, is keen to sell its stake in Gujarat Gas as part of restructuring its asset portfolio. Globally, BG Group focuses on exploration and production activities and liquefied natural gas.

 India's current gas demand of 166m cubic metres a day (mmscmd) is projected to rise to 443 mmscmd by 2017, due to the growing number of power plants, industries and vehicles in Asia's third-largest economy.

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