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Japan Inpex may quit Iran over US sanction-minister

Inpex eyeing pullout from Iran oil field -trade minister.

October 1, 2010 11:03 by

Japan’s trade minister said on Friday the nation’s top oil explorer Inpex Corp may pull out of an oil field project in Iran, joining other global energy firms in abandoning activities there to avoid U.S. sanctions.

Inpex has so far not been named either on a list of firms targeted for U.S. sanctions or on another list of firms excluded from the sanctions, trade minister Akihiro Ohata told reporters.

“Inpex is considering things including a withdrawal based on its own management judgment,” Ohata said. “I want to respect their business decision and refrain from interfering in the matter.”

France’s Total , Norway’s Statoil , Italy’s ENI and Royal Dutch Shell have decided to quit their Iranian activities to avoid U.S. sanctions designed to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Inpex has been weighing a withdrawal from the Azadegan oil field project to avoid harming its business. It has a 10 percent stake in the project.

Inpex would have problems raising funds from U.S. financial institutions and its global development projects could be hindered if it was subject to U.S. sanctions.

Ohata said Inpex was not among companies named as subject to sanctions or among four firms named as not subject to sanctions. “We keep a close eye on the situation. We are relieved that Inpex is not on the sanctions list,” he said.

Japan’s government is the biggest shareholder in Inpex, with an 18.9 percent stake in the trade minister’s name, even after a recent multibillion dollar share sale.

Azadegan was OPEC member Iran’s biggest oil find in 30 years when announced in 1999, with oil-in-place of 26 billion barrels and recoverable resources then estimated at about 6 billion barrels, and it is believed to cost at least $2 billion to develop.

The field started partial output in 2008. Peak output is estimated at 260,000 bpd. Inpex has said it has so far invested about 12.4 billion yen ($148.5 million) in Azadegan.

(Reporting by Risa Maeda and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Nathan Layne)

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