Austria's OMV and Germany's RWE are starting a joint venture to carry out exploration for a gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea that could feed into the Nabucco link to Europe, OMV said on Monday.

The venture, called Caspian Energy Company, will next year review gas transport infrastructure options that could provide Europe with access to natural gas from the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, OMV said.

Based on the study's outcome, the company plans to build and operate gas transport systems across the Caspian Sea which could link to the existing or newly built pipelines towards Turkey and the planned Nabucco gas pipeline, it said.

OMV and RWE are both part of the Nabucco consortium, which plans to build a 7.9 billion euro ($11.1 billion), 3,300 km (2,051 miles) gas pipeline from Turkey to Austria. The Caspian pipeline project would provide a feed into that pipeline.

Nabucco separately confirmed on Monday that its financing was on track despite the global financial crisis.

It plans to raise 30 percent of the funding from shareholders -- which also include Hungary's MOL, Romania's Transgaz, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz and Turkey's Botas.

The remaining funds will be raised as debt, partly from public financial institutions and partly from commercial banks, it said, confirming a Reuters interview with Nabucco's managing director earlier this month.

The OMV/RWE joint venture is still subject to antitrust approval by the relevant authorities, OMV said.

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