By Denny Thomas and Anshuman Daga
HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – U.S. oil and gas major Chevron Corp has put its Myanmar gas block stakes worth an estimated $1.3 billion up for sale, banking sources familiar with the matter said, in what would mark the biggest M&A transaction involving the country’s assets.
The sale is part of Chevron’s efforts to preserve cash and retreat from non-core assets in the wake of sliding oil prices. It is also seen as setting the tone for deals in a country that investors hope will see continued reforms after a historic election win by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy last year.
The sources said suitors could number about half a dozen and would likely include Australia’s Woodside Petroleum, Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, Japanese trading houses and Chinese companies.
“Companies understand that Myanmar is in a very good position as you have export markets like China and Thailand and a growing domestic market,” said Adrian Pooh, a Singapore-based analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
“It’s kind of one of the last few remaining exploration plays with good prospects as well.”
The sources said buyers would be keen to acquire all three assets bundled together.
Chevron is working with an U.S investment bank on the deal, they added, declining to be identified as the sale process has not been made public. Chevron, which has been operating in Myanmar for two decades, declined to comment.
Woodside declined to comment on whether it was interested in Chevron’s assets. But it highlighted its recent exploration successes in the Rakhine Basin, where it is the largest holder of acreage, as well as its partnerships across its six exploration blocks in Myanmar.
Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Chevron owns 28.3 percent of the Yadana and Sein gas fields operated by France’s Total SA in the Andaman Sea, which mostly supplies Thai power plants and also has a stake in the pipeline company that transports the gas to the Thai border. Some of the gas is also supplied to Myanmar.
Last year, it also signed a production sharing contract in exploration Block A5 in the Rakhine Basin. Its subsidiary holds a 99 percent stake in this exploration block.
Chevron’s net daily natural gas production in Myanmar last year averaged 117 million cubic feet, making up 2.2 percent of the company’s annual gas output in 2015.
Myanmar’s previous record deal was Singapore’s Sea View Hotel Ltd’s $1 billion purchase of a hotel property in 2005, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Chevron is also seeking buyers for its Asian geothermal energy blocks valued at about $3 billion, sources familiar with matter have said.
(Reporting by Denny Thomas in HONG KONG and Anshuman Daga in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE, Khettiya Jitapong in BANGKOK and Wilda Asmarini in JAKARTA; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)