MOSCOW - The heads of French oil major Total and Russia's second biggest gas producer, Novatek, will meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, which may be a precursor to a deal between the two.

They will discuss forms of cooperation in the Russian market, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. He declined further comments.

Analysts say meetings between Putin and heads of big companies often precede a major deal announcement.

Novatek has long said it was looking to team up with Total on several projects and in May Novatek acquired a major gas field in Russia's Arctic - South Tambei - with reserves equal to 45 percent of the global gas consumption.

Total has been seeking a tie-up with Novatek, Russia's largest independent gas producer, for several years but its bid to buy a stake in Novatek several years ago never materialised.

Instead Novatek's founding shareholders, a group of Russian businessmen, sold a 19 percent stake in the company to gas export monopoly Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer.

The stake of the founding shareholders was further reduced last month when they sold 18 percent to Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko, the co-founder of the world's third largest oil trading firm, Gunvor. Timchenko in turn sold the South Tambei field to Novatek.

In February one of Novatek's founding shareholders, Chief Executive Leonid Mikhelson, told Reuters Novatek was in talks with Total on two possible projects and agreements could be reached in the near future.

Mikhelson, who will meet Putin on Wednesday alongside Total's Christophe de Margerie, said the firms were looking at two assets and could explore them together adding that Novatek could also join one of Total's projects.

Total's main project in Russia so far has been a 25 percent stake in a Gazprom-led venture to develop Shtokman, one of the world's largest gas fields, located in the stormy Barents Sea. (Reporting by Gleb Bryanski and Katya Golubkova; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Greg Mahlich)