Petronas to Pay $2.51 Billion for LNG Project Stake

May 29 (Bloomberg) — Petroliam Nasional Bhd., Malaysia’s state oil company, agreed to pay $2.51 billion to buy a 40 percent stake in Santos Ltd.’s proposed liquefied natural gas project in northeast Australia to tap rising demand for the fuel.

Petronas, Asia’s biggest LNG producer, will make an initial cash payment of $2.01 billion, plus a further $500 million once the partners decide to build a second LNG processing unit, Adelaide-based Santos said today in a statement. Santos jumped 15 percent to a record in Sydney trading.

LNG demand is set to increase by 10 percent a year through 2015, more than five times estimated gains in crude oil, as power producers switch to cleaner fuels, according to Citigroup Inc. Petronas will gain a stake in a new LNG supply project as prices for the fuel paid by utilities in Japan, the world’s biggest importer, reach almost double the U.S. benchmark, consultant Facts Inc. said.

“Petronas is a big LNG producer and, being willing to put $2 billion up front, Santos just couldn’t say `no’,” said Aiden Bradley, an oil and gas analyst at ABN Amro Australia Pty in Sydney. “Petronas is going to want to get LNG cargoes, so they’re going to be a supportive partner with national oil company-type financial backing.”

Santos, which has surged 51 percent in the past six months, gained as much as A$2.77 to A$21.75 and was at A$21.17 at 3:36 p.m. local time.

Rival Talks

Santos, Australia’s third-biggest oil and gas producer, said in April it was in talks with a number of potential partners for the Gladstone LNG venture in Queensland state that will be one of the first worldwide to use coal-seam gas as a fuel. The Australian company will remain as operator and own the rest of the A$7.7 billion ($7.4 billion) project.

Kuala Lumpur-based Petronas, which produces LNG in Malaysia and Egypt, is increasing overseas investments as it seeks to expand production outside its home country. In December it agreed to buy Star Energy Group Plc, gaining control of a U.K. gas production and storage business to complement its stake in a gas-import terminal.

Petronas is already a partner with Santos in the undeveloped Evans Shoal gas field off northern Australia and is the biggest shareholder in APA Group, the owner of pipelines that transport more than half of Australia’s gas.

The Gladstone LNG partnership with Santos “provides an excellent growth opportunity” for Petronas’s LNG business, Mohd Hassan Marican, president and chief executive officer of Petronas, said in the statement. JPMorgan Chase & Co. advised Petronas on the investment, the bank said in an e-mail from Hong Kong.

2014 Shipments

The initial Gladstone LNG project will have a capacity of at least 3 million metric tons a year, with first shipments scheduled for early 2014, Santos Acting Chief Executive Officer David Knox said April 8. The proposed second unit would also be 3 million tons a year, Santos said today.

A project of 6 million tons a year of LNG represents about 3.5 percent of last year’s global supply.

“Petronas is the ideal partner to help develop Santos’s coal seam gas-to-LNG strategy and their investment significantly advances the project,” Santos Chairman Stephen Gerlach said in the statement.

Petronas is buying 538 petajoules (507 billion cubic feet) of proven and probable gas reserves from Santos at a price of about A$4.91 a gigajoule, Santos said. The sale represents a third of Santos’s proven and probable coal seam gas reserves and less than 11 percent of its total reserves, it said.

Santos’s Gladstone LNG project is one of five rival LNG ventures planned in the northeastern Australian city using coal seam gas as a fuel. BG Group Plc, the biggest LNG supplier from the Atlantic Basin into Asia, formed a venture earlier this year to build a project with Queensland Gas Co. Petronas and BG are partners in an LNG venture in Egypt.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Macdonald-Smith in Sydney at amacdonaldsm@bloomberg.net.

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