Wintershall, the oil and gas subsidiary of Germany's BASF, may join the South Stream project to pump Russian gas to Western Europe by the end of this year, the Kommersant business daily said on Tuesday.
The South Stream pipeline to transport Russian gas to Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria bypassing Ukraine is to be built jointly by Gazprom, Electricite de France (EdF) and Italy's ENI. Its estimated price tag is 8-25 billion euro ($10.5-33 billion).
"The possibility of inviting another partner with a share equal to that of France is being discussed. I think that by the end of this year we will be ready to sign the deal," a source close to negotiations said.
The source also told Kommersant that discussions on bringing the German company into the project began about six months ago.
"The Germans will have a share equal to that of France, but EdF's share has not been defined yet. It could be either 10% or 20%," the source noted.
Gazprom, Eni, and EdF signed a memorandum of understanding to bring the French company into the South Stream on June 19. The Russian and Italian companies have, however, failed to agree so far on whether each of them should give EdF 5% or 10% of their shares.
Gazprom and ENI have not commented.
But the Russian energy giant's press service said that Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Wintershall CEO Rainer Seele met in early September to address "the prospects for a joint entry of Gazprom and Wintershall Holding into large investment projects of mutual interest."
Gazprom said in mid-June that it was ready to start South Stream's construction in 2013 and should begin pumping gas to Europe by 2015.
MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosti)