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04 March 2024

Taqa eyes Iran gas; mulls bond sale

By Agencies



State-controlled Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (Taqa) said it is in talks with Iran to import natural gas to the UAE and is considering selling more shares next year to fund acquisitions.

The talks also involve Taqa -- which has so far this year agreed on $11bn of acquisitions from Canada to India -- investing in the Iranian energy industry, Chief Executive Officer Peter Barker-Homek told reporters in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, on Thursday.

"Taqa is in talks with Iran to import gas for the UAE," Barker-Homek said on Thursday. "We certainly see economic co-dependence as something of the future."

Taqa could invest in petroleum pipelines, liquefied natural projects and power stations in Iran, he said.

Demand for natural gas in the UAE, the second-largest economy, is surging on demand for power and water from a growing population, and expanding commerce and industry.

The UAE this year took delivery of its first gas imports from Qatar, the first cross-border gas project in the Gulf. Iran, which the US is trying to isolate over its nuclear power programme, holds the world's second-largest reserves of the fuel after Russia.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week offered gas supplies to Gulf Arab leaders.

Taqa, which raised Dh600m ($163.4 million) in an initial public offering in 2005, could sell more shares or bonds that are convertible to stock next year to finance buyouts, Barker-Homek said, without being more specific.

The government of Abu Dhabi, the world's sixth-largest oil exporter, owns 75 per cent of Taqa. The rest is publicly traded.

"We are looking at increasing the equity component of the company in the form of a secondary IPO in Abu Dhabi, possibly in the second half of 2008, or a convertible bond to meet our financing requirements," Barker-Homek said.

Taqa's head of acquisitions, Manu Mehra, told Reuters in October the company might sell as much as $6 bn of bonds to finance purchase. The company has already raised $2bn of that.

Only UAE nationals can own Taqa stock. Barker-Homek ruled out opening ownership to foreigners until at least 2010.

Taqa in November won Canadian approval to buy PrimeWest Energy Trust for C$5bn and the Canadian unit of Pioneer Natural Resource Co for $540m.

The PrimeWest purchase will be completed next month, with perhaps two acquisitions planned for 2008 compared with six agreed this year, Barker-Homek said.

"My focus would be on mid-stream or down-stream because we did upstream in 2007," Barker-Homek said. "I don't see 2008 as active ... instead of six, we may do one or two deals because small transactions take a long time."

The company plans to triple the value of its assets to $60bn by the end of 2012, from about $21bn, he said.

"We would like to extend our presence in other Gulf countries," he said. "We are also looking at opportunities in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya." He was not more specific. (Reuters)