ONGC Videsh (OVL)-Hinduja group company Ashok Leyland Project Services joint venture has lost out to China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) to develop Iran’s South Azadegan oilfield.

The joint venture was touted to get at least 45 per cent stake in the 2.60-lakh barrels a day South Azadegan oilfield but officials here said that China beat India with offers of multi-billion dollar soft loans to bag the rights.

CNPC on September 27 signed a contract with National Iranian Oil Company’s (NICO) overseas subsidiary Naftiran Intertrade Co (NICO) in Lausanne, Switzerland, to take 70 per cent stake in the oilfield along the Iraqi border.

NICO, which held 90 per cent stake in the field, would be left with 20 per cent interest while Inpex of Japan would hold the remaining 10 per cent.

Officials said China had reportedly agreed to even contribute NICO’s share of the $2.5-billion cost for developing the field that holds an estimated 42 billion barrels of oil reserves, one of the world’s largest finds in the last 30 years.

CNPC had in January won rights to develop the North Azadegan oilfield and the Indian alliance was preferred for the Southern fields as Iran was said to be against giving the entire block to one firm.

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