Balkan pipeline talks on table

Talks to set up a company to own and operate a €950-million ($1.29 billion) trans-Balkan oil pipeline will begin next month in Moscow, the Bulgarian construction minister said today.

Russia, Bulgaria and Greece agreed last month to launch the construction of a 279-kilometre (173-miles) oil pipeline to carry Urals oil from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis on the Aegean, bypassing the congested Bosphorous straits.

"We will launch talks in Moscow in the first half of May for the establishment of an international project company," Construction Minister Asen Gagauzov said after meeting his Greek counterpart Dimitris Siufas, Reuters reported.

Russian oil producers Rosneft and Gazprom Neft and crude oil pipeline monopoly Transneft will hold 51% in the project, while Greece and Bulgaria will have 24.5% each.

Bulgaria's stake will be handled by state companies Bulgargaz and Transexportstroy. Greek partners are Hellenic Petroleum , Latsis Group and the Greek unit of Gazprom, Petroleum Gas.

Bulgaria has said it may sell its stake or part of it to oil majors such as KazMunaiGas and Chevron.

Kazakh Energy Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov said earlier this month the country wants to buy a stake in the pipeline within the 49% share of Bulgaria and Greece, but the exact figure was still to be discussed.

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