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French energy giant Total to buy 37% stake in India's Adani Gas

Total has agreed to buy a 37.4 percent stake in India's Adani Gas, the two firms said Monday, with the French giant spending $600 million to expand its access to the energy-hungry country.

The Indian firm, part of the Adani Group conglomerate, is one of the four main distributors of city gas in the country, and plans to increase its coverage to six million homes and 1,500 outlets to supply vehicles over the next decade.

Under the terms of the deal, Total will make an open offer to Adani Gas shareholders to purchase up to 25.2 percent before buying the remaining equity from the company, leaving the French and Indian firms with an equal share.

"Energy needs in India are immense and the Indian energy mix is key to the climate change challenge," Patrick Pouyanne, Total chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

"The natural gas market in India will have a strong growth and is an attractive outlet for the world's second-largest LNG player that Total has become," he added.

Natural gas currently represents a fraction of India's energy consumption -- around seven percent -- while a June report by the Centre for Science and Environment think-tank found that the country's gas-based power plants were running at 24 percent of their capacity.

On Sunday, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said New Delhi was investing over $60 billion to build pipelines and other infrastructure aimed at increasing the use of natural gas in the country, the Press Trust of India reported.

"Our government is exploring strategic partnerships for overall development of oil and gas sector. The role of private sector -- both domestic and from abroad, for bringing in investments with necessary innovations for future energy landscape in the country, will remain crucial," he said in Delhi.

India has set a target to increase natural gas consumption to 15 percent by 2030.

"Total's investment in Adani Gas reinforces India's natural gas and demand potential. We look forward to working together towards delivering India's vision for clean and green energy," said Gautam Adani, founder of the mining-to-logistics conglomerate.

The Indian group has faced fierce criticism over the environmental impact of a huge coal mine scheduled for construction in Australia, with conservationists saying it will increase global warming, threaten local vulnerable species, and damage the Great Barrier Reef.

Shares in Adani Gas closed nearly 10 percent higher in Mumbai Monday following the news of the acquisition. Total shares were off 1.76 percent in Paris.

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