Italian firm signs deal to lay Nord Stream gas pipeline

MOSCOW, June 24 (RIA Novosti) - An Italian engineering company said Tuesday it had signed a contract to lay the first section of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

Saipem, 43% of whose shares are owned by the Italian energy giant Eni SpA, agreed the deal - worth more than $1 billion - with Nord Stream AG, the operator of the pipeline construction project.

The first part of the 1,200 km (746-mile) pipeline, which will run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, is scheduled to start pumping gas in 2010.

Russian energy giant Gazprom holds a 51% stake in operator Nord Stream AG, with Germany's BASF and E.ON each holding 24.5%.

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