The Shah Deniz II consortium is in advanced talks on acquiring a 50% non-controlling stake in Nabucco Gas Pipeline International, a partner in the European pipeline project has revealed, according to reports.
Speaking to journalists in Sofia, Bulgarian Energy Holding boss Mikhail Andonov said that the Nabucco partners hoped to seal a deal on the stake when they meet on 10 January.
"We are holding talks almost every day. We expect Shah Deniz to acquire 50% of the shares in the Nabucco consortium," Andonov said, according to Reuters.
The Shah Deniz II mega-project in Azerbaijan is operated by BP with Statoil, Socar, Total, Eni, Lukoil, TPAO and NIOC also involved.
Nabucco's rival, the Trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP) pipeline, is owned by Statoil, E.ON Ruhrgas and Switzerland's EGL.
The Shah Deniz II consortium is due to decide by the middle of 2013 on its export route to Europe, with TAP and Nabucco West being the two remaining contenders.
Nabucco West runs 1300 kilometres from the Bulgarian-Turkish border to the Austrian hub of Baumgarten, while TAP runs 520 kilometres from the Caspian through Greece, Albania, the Adriatic Sea to southern Italy.
The Shah Deniz II consortium has already signed a funding deal with TAP, although at the time Shah Deniz II said it also planned to agree a deal with Nabucco, and has also said that Nabucco would have to hand over a significant stake in order to stay in the race.
"There are two semi-finals for the Azeri gas. Such a deal will boost significantly the prospects for Nabucco," Andonov said.
A Nabucco spokesman declined to comment to the wire service on the talks.
Nabucco is owned by six players on an equal 16.7% slice: Austria’s Hungary’s MOL, Turkey’s Botas, Germany’s RWE, Transgaz of Romania and Bulgaria Energy Holdings.
German utility RWE is currently holding talks to sell its stake in Nabucco to OMV.