* Sinochem looks to rejig energy assets amid low oil price
* Beat Chinese rivals to buy stake for $3.07 bln in 2010
* Peregrino is 60 pct-owned by Norway heavyweight Statoil
* Potential buyers to be tapped in India, Japan, Middle East
By Anshuman Daga, Nidhi Verma and Chen Aizhu
SINGAPORE/NEW DELHI/BEIJING, Feb 21 China's
Sinochem is exploring the sale of its 40 percent stake in
Brazil's Peregrino offshore oilfield, four people familiar with
the matter told Reuters, a deal that could see the state-owned
conglomerate walk away what was once touted as a key overseas
asset because of historically low oil prices.
The oil and chemicals firm agreed to buy the stake from
Norway's Statoil for $3.07 billion in 2010 - beating
out a raft of Chinese rivals chasing high-quality assets. The
Norwegian giant owns the other 60 percent of Peregrino, the
largest heavy oilfield it operates outside its home patch.
But two of the people with knowledge of the matter said
Sinochem is moving to sell its largest overseas upstream stake -
with capacity to pump 100,000 barrels a day - as it reshapes its
assets to reflect oil prices having halved in the last two and a
half years. With that in mind, one person said, Sinochem was
pitching the sale at a big discount to its purchase price.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported Sinochem was in early
talks to buy a stake in Singapore-listed commodity trader Noble
Group, a move that would further its ambitions to
become more active in global energy trade and also develop
China's gas industry.
The process to sell the Brazilian stake is still at an early
stage and a final decision would depend on how the negotiations
progress, the people familiar with the matter said. They spoke
on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to
discuss it publicly.
Statoil declined to comment and Sinochem did not respond to
requests for comment from Reuters.
Two sources said Sinochem's intent to sell the stake has
been shared with India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation
. ONGC did not respond to requests for comments.
One person said the stake is also likely to be pitched to
other international buyers, including some Japanese firms and
Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company, which snapped up
Royal Dutch Shell's stake in Thailand's Bongkot gas
field for $900 million last month.
SINOCHEM - ASSET MANAGER?
The potential sale of the stake in Peregrino - located 85 km
off Brazil in the Campos basin below about 100 metres of water -
comes as oil prices hover in a mid-$50s per barrel range, well
below the highs of recent years. That trend has also prompted
other industry players to consider selling once-prized assets.
Earlier this week, Reuters reported Malaysian state-owned
oil and gas firm Petronas is aiming to sell a large minority
stake in a local gas project for up to $1 billion as it seeks to
raise cash and cut development costs.
For its part, Sinochem has seen growth in its key oil
trading business stagnate, with increasing domestic competition
from the likes of state oil traders Unipec and Chinaoil, while
overseas oil and gas assets have struggled amid the prolonged
low oil prices.
"Sinochem is readjusting its energy asset structure," said a
Beijing-based industry veteran familiar with the company's
strategy. "As a medium- to small-sized oil producer, exposure to
higher cost assets like deep water has become over-challenging."
"The company sees itself more as an asset manager. This
becomes a clearer direction under the new management," the
industry executive said, referring to Sinochem chairman Ning
Gaoning who took over the helm last year.
The potential sale of the Peregrino stake also comes ahead
of the second phase of the project's development, expected to
cost about $3.5 billion with production from the new phase set
to start by the end of the decade.
The second phase is designed to add about 250 million
barrels in recoverable reserves to Peregrino, which currently
contains an estimated reserve of between 300 million and 600
million barrels of recoverable oil.
(Reporting by Anshuman Daga in SINGAPORE, Nidhi Verma in NEW
DELHI and Chen Aizhu in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Dmitry
Zhdannikov in LONDON and Gwladys Fouche in OSLO; Editing by