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OMV in talks with four European companies on Nabucco Project

OMV, central Europe's biggest oil company, said it has lined up four unidentified European companies to join its project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Turkey to Austria.

„It's part of the process to find a sixth partner,” said Werner Auli, head of OMV AG's gas unit, in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Istanbul on Friday. „It was always planned to have a partner as a strategic shareholder to make the project easier to finance and to have a better position in the market.” European countries need to open up new supply routes as demand for gas jumps and domestic reserves are depleted.

Construction of the Nabucco pipeline, as the OMV-led project is know, is scheduled to start in 2008 with gas starting to flow in 2011. The pipeline group includes Bulgaria's Bulgargaz AD, Hungary's Mol Nyrt, Romania's Transgas and Turkey's Botas. Turkey has a very important role in linking fields in the Caspian Sea region to Europe and „Nabucco is one big bridging project,” Auli said. The new partner will be chosen in the first quarter at the latest, he said. The Nabucco pipeline, which will cost as much as €5 billion ($6.5 billion), will be able to carry about 31 billion cubic meters of gas a year. (Bloomberg)