BP Is Front-Runner for Stake in Pakistan State Oil: The Times

British oil and gas group BP is a front-runner to win a controlling stake in Pakistan State Oil in
a deal worth about $600 million, the Times of London reported on Monday.

MerchantBridge, a London-based investment bank, has joined forces with BP in the bidding, the newspaper said.

MerchantBridge managing partner Basil al-Rahim was quoted as saying: "Pakistan's economy is growing at between 6% and 7% a year. We take the view that that will continue for the foreseeable future and wish to participate in that growth. BP can bring additional operating improvements to the business."

A comment was not immediately available from BP.

The Times said Petronas of Malaysia and Swiss-based oil trader Vitol were among the other companies competing for the PSO stake.

PSO, whose main rivals are Shell Pakistan and Caltex Pakistan, is next in line on the Pakistani government's privatisation agenda. The government is selling all but 3% of its 54% holding in the company.

Bidding is scheduled for May 19, though a case regarding the disqualification of Attock Group from the process is pending in a court, and could delay the sale.