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INTERVIEW-Maire Tecnimont sees opportunities in Algeria energy shake-up

MILAN, March 23 (Reuters) - Maire Tecnimont hopes to pick up business from Sonatrach as the Algerian state-owned energy company's new management starts investing again, the head of the Italian engineer told Reuters.

CEO Pierroberto Folgiero said the Milan-based oil and gas services company, which works in the refining, petrochemicals and fertiliser industries, saw opportunities in gas-rich Algeria as the country reorders its energy sector and restarts projects.

"The new Sonatrach management in my opinion is doing really well. We are taking part in a few bids for work with them," Folgiero said in an interview.

OPEC member Algeria is a major gas supplier to Europe but has been hard hit by a slump in world oil prices and has struggled to attract energy investments. Italian oil major Eni has key gas contracts with the country.

Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour took over as head of Sonatrach last year to overhaul a company plagued by contract disputes with foreign firms, red tape, and stagnant production.

Maire Tecnimont, keen to grow its business in the United States, is also paying a lot of attention to South East Asia. It recently entered the Malaysian and Philippine markets using local partners.

"We are looking with great interest at Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand," Folgiero said.

Maire Tecnimont, traditionally strong in Russia and the Middle East, saw revenue jump 44 percent to 3.5 billion euros ($4.3 billion) last year, supported by a record order backlog worth 7.2 billion euros.

Last June the company, which employs around 8,000 people in 40 countries, signed a bumper 3.9 billion euro contract with Russia's Gazprom.

Folgiero said the group was keen to consolidate last year's growth trend this year.

"There's a wave of investments in the downstream (as) the big national oil companies rethink what to do with crude reserves, focusing on petrochemicals," he said.

Growth will be organic, with mergers and acquisitions not a priority. "There's a lot of market to capture, we don't need to buy companies to increase our production capacity," he said.

But in Iran, potential business is on hold and nothing is expected in the near term. Maire Tecnimont, one of the few Western contractors to stay in Iran after sanctions, signed a memorandum of understanding with Teheran in 2016 worth around 2 billion euros.

"The market hasn't restarted for various reasons, including the lack of capital," Folgiero said.

($1 = 0.8106 euros) (Editing by Mark Potter)