MOSCOW (AFX) – ChevronTexaco Corp, ConocoPhillips and Total are among 15 companies pitching to buy a 25.8% stake in the Russian oil group Rusia Petroleum, the business daily Vedomosti reported.

Rusia Petroleum is 62.4%owned by BP PLC joint venture TNK-BP, and the regional administration of Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia, with 11.2%

The 25.8% up for sale belong to the Interros holding company of Russian tycoon Vladimir Potanin, and are expected to fetch between 200-500 mln usd, analysts believe.

Rusia Petroleum holds the operating licence for the Kovytka gas deposits in eastern Siberia where reserves have been estimated at 1,900 billion cubic metres, one of the largest undeveloped gas fields in the world.

Other interested companies include the US firm Apache Corp, Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd, China’s CNOOC and Sinochem International Co Ltd, India’s ONGC and the troubled Russian oil producer Yukos, Vedomosti said, quoting sources close to the negotiations.

The Russian gas giant Gazprom has not yet declared an interest, nor have the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) or Korea Gas Corporation (Kogas) with which Rusia Petroleum last week signed a US$17 billion project to supply Kovytka gas to Chinese and South Korean markets.

In a research note, the United Financial Group brokerage firm said that Gazprom, which has the status of East Siberian gas development coordinator, could seek to use “administrative resources” — its links to the state — to obtain the Rusia Petroleum stake at a lower price.

However the risk of this happening, given that 15 contenders are due to take part in an open bidding competition, is low, UFG commented.

Gazprom, which has feared the project could break its stranglehold on gas export pipelines, nonetheless participated in the feasibility study.