Indian Energy Official Plans Visit to Seek Stakes in Russia

NEW DELHI — India's oil minister, Murli Deora, will visit Russia early next month and seek Moscow's help in securing stakes in Russian energy assets, Indian government officials said on Monday.

India, Asia's third-largest oil consumer, and its larger rival China have both been chasing oil and gas assets abroad to meet their fast-growing demand for energy.

Indian firms have already partnered with Russian companies in taking stakes in fields and New Delhi wants more opportunities.

Most recently, state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp agreed to a takeover of mid-sized, London-listed Russian oil producer Imperial Energy for $2.6 billion.

"[Deora] will be leaving on November 4," said S. Sundareshan, additional secretary in the oil ministry.

The visit, expected to last two days, is aimed at garnering Moscow's support for Indian firms' acquisition of stakes in oil and gas assets in Russia, Sundareshan said.

Both Sundareshan and ONGC's chairman R.S. Sharma said the Imperial deal would not be high on the agenda.

"The Imperial transaction may not be on the agenda. The Moscow [visit] is for building a relationship," Sharma said.

ONGC, which has a 20 percent stake in the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project, is looking at participating in the development of Sakhalin-3, an ambition raised by India during former President Vladimir Putin's visit in January last year.

Sakhalin-3 had been meant to be developed by state-run Rosneft and U.S. oil major Exxon but, as the production sharing deal has never been finalized, the government plans to re-auction the deposits.