PetroKazakhstan, an oil producer based in Canada with assets in central Asia, is considering a sale, potentially turning itself into the latest battleground in the global competition for energy resources.
PetroKaz has a market capitalisation of $2.5bn. Investment bankers at Goldman Sachs, working for the company, were expecting to receive bids for it this week, according to people familiar with the matter.
A Chinese and an Indian oil company were the frontrunners in the auction, these people added, although they were careful not to rule out that a western energy company might also decide to put in an offer. No specific names were mentioned.
Because of soaring demand for oil, China and India have been seeking to gain control of assets by pushing their energy companies into acquisitions.
That policy was highlighted last week when state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation made a $20bn unsolicited bid for Unocal of the US.
CNOOC is not believed to be interested in acquiring PetroKaz.
Although PetroKaz is based in Calgary, central Canada, its assets are all in the South Turgai Basin in south-central Kazakhstan.
On its website, PetroKaz says its proved plus probable crude oil reserves have been independently assessed at 550m barrels.
PetroKaz's consideration of a sale has come as the group is facing a legal challenge from Lukoil, the Russian oil company.
This month Lukoil filed a $200m claim against PetroKaz at the International Chamber of Commerce's court of arbitration in connection with a dispute over Turgai Petroleum, a joint venture between the two companies.
The company has also been at odds with the Kazakh government over environmental regulations.