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Canada says India slow to invest in Alberta oil sands

* Canada expects Indian companies will make oil sands deals

* Chinese bid for oil producer Nexen makes waves in Canada

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Indian companies are laggingbehind when it comes to investing in Canada's giant oil sandsbut could well start making deals within the next five years,Canadian Energy Minister Joe Oliver says.

Oliver, speaking to Reuters before a visit to Delhi andMumbai, said Canadian energy industry needs C$650 billion ($663billion) in investment over the next decade. Ottawa concedesmuch of it will have to come from abroad.

To some political consternation in Canada, China is rapidlybuying up assets in the tar sands of northern Alberta, one ofthe world's biggest crude oil deposits. But India - the world'sfourth largest oil importer - has yet to conclude a deal.

"I think they realize ... they are certainly behind others,and they acknowledge that," Oliver said.

"They are looking to Canada now with increasing interest. Ican't predict what precisely they'll do, but I'd certainly besurprised that if in five years from now the picture didn't lookquite a bit different."

Last month sources said a trio of state-run Indian oilcompanies had bid $5 billion for stakes in Canadian oil sandsholdings owned by ConocoPhillips .

The bid from the group, which comprises producers Oil andNatural Gas Corp and Oil India Ltd withrefiner and retailer Indian Oil Corp , is the first byIndian energy companies for assets in Canada.

Canada is now deciding whether to approve a $15.1 billionbid by Chinese state-owned CNOOC Ltd for oil producerNexen Inc , which is active in the oil sands.

Some in Canada's governing Conservative Party are uneasyabout allowing a Chinese state-owned enterprise to buy suchassets.

Indian state companies are partly owned by an electedgovernment in what is the world's most populous democracy, andthis could help reduce Canadian hesitation about future deals.

Oliver said he would try to boost Canadian energy exports toIndia. The government, keen to reduce its export reliance on theUnited States, is already trying to boost oil sales to China.

Canada exported C$1.4 billion ($1.43 billion) worth ofnatural resources to India last year - including just C$4.1million in energy products - and Oliver said he sees greatpotential for more trade.

"There is tremendous complimentarity between our twocountries. We have these vast resources - oil, gas, minerals,metals and forestry - and India is growing ... there are immenseopportunities," he said.

Oliver - noting that Saudi Arabia and Iran together supply29 percent of India's oil - said major importers of crudegenerally want to diversify their sources of supply to includewhat he called reliable and stable countries.

But any talk of boosting Canadian oil exports to India willdepend in part on how soon new pipelines are built from theAlberta oil sands to ports on the Pacific Coast.

Opposition to one of the proposed pipelines, Enbridge Inc's

Northern Gateway project, is steadily growing and thereare doubts as to whether it will ever be built.

($1=$0.98 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)

((david.ljunggren@thomsonreuters.com)(+1 613 235 6745)(fax +1613 235 5890)(Reuters Messaging:david.ljunggren@thomsonreuters.com))

Keywords: CANADA ENERGY/INDIA