BP Says Kovykta Talks May Take Longer

LONDON -- BP said Tuesday that it could extend talks with Gazprom over an asset-swap deal involving the giant Kovykta gas field if the two sides did not reach an agreement by a July deadline.

The two parties agreed last year that Gazprom would buy control in Kovykta from TNK-BP, which is half-owned by BP, and then sell 25 percent back to the British oil major as part of a broader strategic pact.

Agreement on the first leg of the deal, the sale of Kovykta, was delayed beyond an end-2007 deadline, although TNK-BP hopes a deal will be finalized in the first quarter of this year.

The second leg of the deal involves BP offering Gazprom assets to buy back a 25 percent stake in Kovykta.

"It's always difficult when you are trying to put together what is, in a sense, an asset swap," chief executive Tony Hayward said.

The two sides have also given different estimates of the value of the sale price of TNK-BP's share in Kovykta.