SEOUL (Dow Jones)
Ecuador is seeking strategic investors to buy a stake in a proposed $12.5 billion joint oil refinery project with Venezuela, Ecuador's Strategic Sectors Minister Jorge Glas said Friday.
"We're inviting many enterprises to be part of our project, to be shareholders of the project," Glas told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of an investment seminar.
"We're trying to select one, two or three strategic partners. That's a very important project for us," he said.
Glas is part of a delegation led by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who arrived in Korea Wednesday for a three-day official visit. Correa had earlier travelled to Japan.
Companies in South Korea and China have shown interest in taking equity in the project, Glas said. He declined to identify them.
Asked to specify how large a stake any single company could take in the project, Glas said: "We have to decide that within the conversation with strategic partners."
In March, Ecuador signed a contract with South Korea's SK Engineering and Construction Co. for basic engineering of the $12.5 billion oil refinery project, known as Refineria del Pacifico, or Pacific Refinery.
The new refinery--scheduled to come online in 2013 with a capacity of 300,000 barrels a day--would help reduce Ecuador's reliance on imports of oil products such as gasoline.
Refineria del Pacifico will be owned 51% by Ecuador's state-run Petroecuador and 49% by Venezuela's state-run Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA.
Glas said Ecuador is also in talks with several banks about financing the Pacific Refinery project.
"We're talking with exim (export-import) banks from Korea, China and a lot of countries. We're having conversations with everybody. Exim banks and private banks. There's some high-level interest from European banks," he said.
The Ecuadorian government hopes to secure financial support from third parties to the tune of 70% of the facility's slated cost. Petroecuador and PDVSA will finance the other 30% of the project.
The Refineria del Pacifico will be built in Ecuador's coastal Manabi province.
Glas said Korean companies such as Samsung, SK, GS and Hyundai have shown interest in other Ecuadorian projects, including electricity and resources development.
At a summit with President Lee Myung-bak Wednesday, President Correa agreed to bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including trade, investment, technology, energy, resources and infrastructure construction.
Thursday, Korea National Oil Corp. signed a letter of intent with the Ecuadorian government, under which the Korean company can study the feasibility of exploring for oil and natural gas in the Andean country.
Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.