Italian firm ENI is seemingly ahead of German titan E.ON in the race to acquire a stake in the massive Yuzhno-Russkoye oil and gas field in Siberia. Gazprom is offering a 25% share of the field.

Reports from both Reuters and AFX suggest that ENI’s willingness to offer Gazprom an equity share in its north African upstream and Italian downstream assets have put it in pole position to gain access to the Siberian field. E.ON is reportedly unwilling to conduct such an asset swap with Gazprom.

Recently Gazprom concluded a deal to give Germany’s Wintershall – part of chemicals giant BASF – a 35% stake in Yuzhno-Russkoye in return for an interest in Wintershall’s German gas distribution network. This deal was seen as a significant pointer to Gazprom’s strategy for accessing the western European downstream sector, and an asset swap with ENI would give added credence to this hypothesis.

Gazprom has made no secret of its desire to play a greater role in gas supply within Europe, with earlier reports linking it to the possible acquisition outright of another player such as the UK group Centrica.