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Oil Companies Ready to Snatch

      Oil Companies Are Ready to Snatch the Longyi from Burma Corpse
                 (They keep watch on Burma after US sanctions)

By Peter Lardner

TOKYO, April 25 (Reuter) - Some Asian oil and gas companies are ready to 
fill any vacuum in future energy investment in Burma after the United 
States placed sanctions on the military-led country.

Company sources said they doubted the sanctions on Burma would force U.S. 
firms Unocal Corp , Texaco Inc or Atlantic Richfield Co (ARCO) to limit 
their presence in Burma.

But they would consider any new opportunities which did emerge, officials 
at the companies said.

U.S. President Bill Clinton approved economic sanctions against Burma on 
Tuesday in protest to what the U.S. alleges is a record of human rights 
abuse by the Burmese government.

The sanctions include banning new investment in Burma by U.S. companies.

Prajya Phinyawat, president of Thailand's state-run PTT Exploration and 
Production Plc PTTE.BK , said he thought it was unlikely the U.S. 
companies would need to withdraw from Burma.

But PTTEP, an investment arm of state-run Petroleum Authority of Thailand 
(PTT), would consider taking over their interests if approached.

"I would consider the proposals as a good opportunity. However, we must 
look at their selling prices first before making any deal," Prajya said.

Burma is considered a dynamic country for the exploration industry, 
especially after recent finds. The absence of future U.S. investment 
offers a bigger market share for other explorers, analysts said.

"There is acreage and there are a lot of companies interested to be 
there," one said.

Roger Beach, chief executive officier of Unocal, Burma's biggest U.S. 
investor, told Reuters shortly after the sanctions were announced the 
company was disappointed and had no intention of pulling out.

But if they were forced to sell their interest, there would be willing 
buyers, compmany officials said in Bangkok earlier this week.

"We would sell it for a premium because there are so many investors who 
would like to have (the investments)," he said.

Some companies that have shown interest include Total, Elf Aquitaine 
ELFP.PA, British Gas Plc BG.L and Broken Hill Pty BHP.AX , he said.

Unocal has a 28.26 percent stake in the US$1.2 billion Yadana gas project 
offshore Burma. The field, with reserves of five trillion cubic feet, is 
due on stream next year.

Texaco plans commercial production of gas off Burma in 1999, while ARCO 
has struck gas in exploration Block M9.

The chairman and managing director of India's state-run Oil and Natural 
Gas Corp, B.C. Bora, said gaining approval from the Indian government to 
explore in Burma would be a long process.

"Nothing right now is in the pipeline," he said.

Japan's Mitsubushi Oil Co 5004.T said it had no specific plans for 
upstream investment in Burma at present, but did not rule it out as a 
future consideration.

"We are always exploring potential opportunies in the region, including 
Burma, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam, but we have no upstream activity or 
plans for investment in Burma," a company spokesman said.

--Tokyo newsroom (+813 3432 7587)