MOSCOW - Russia is considering inviting India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp to develop oil and gas fields in Russia, the government said on Thursday, ahead of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to India.
ONGC has already agreed to cooperate with oil-to-telecoms group Sistema, which controls assets in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, and may also gain access to lucrative oil and gas projects in Russia's far north, the government said.
Sistema, in turn, was looking to deepen investment in its Indian mobile unit, Sistema Shyam TeleServices, with more than $600 million, the government said in a statement. Russia aims to more than double trade with India to $20 billion by 2015. Putin is expected to preside over deals worth more than $10 billion, spanning defence, nuclear power and fertilisers, when he visits this week.
The government said talks would take place with a view to ONGC's participation in development of the Trebs and Titov oil and gas fields in northwest Russia and deposits on the Arctic peninsula of Yamal.
Putin hosted the heads of foreign energy majors in Yamal in September, where he invited stable and long-term partners to help develop a region with enough gas in the ground to satisfy world demand for five years.
The government also referred in the statement to a memorandum of understanding signed in December, during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow, by ONGC and Sistema, controlled by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov.
The companies agreed to cooperate in oil and gas exploration and production. The government said cooperation could extend to the acquisition of assets in the oil and gas industry in Russia and other countries.
ONGC already has a foothold in Russia after its acquisition of Imperial Energy in 2008.
Sistema, whose main asset is top Russian mobile phone operator MTS, last year spent $2.5 billion buying control of Bashneft and five other energy firms in which it already owned blocking stakes of up to 30 percent.
The company has offered to buy out minority shareholders. The year 2010 will be a year of consolidation for Bashneft, VTB Capital analyst Svetlana Grizan said.
Bashneft needs additional crude to feed its refineries, and Sistema has said it is looking for upstream assets.
Sistema has applied to anti-trust authorities for permission to buy up to 49 percent of mid-sized oil company Russneft, whose ownership reverted back to founder Mikhail Gutseriyev after tycoon Oleg Deripaska reversed a deal concluded in 2007 to acquire the firm. (Additional reporting and writing by Robin Paxton, editing by Anthony Barker)