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Ophir Energy's Fortuna FLNG project taps Chinese banks for $1.2 billion

AMSTERDAM, May 8 (Reuters) - British oil and gas explorer Ophir Energy (Other OTC: OPGYF - news) will tap Chinese banks for $1.2 billion in loans to underpin development of its Fortuna floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) export project in Equatorial Guinea, its CEO Nick Cooper said on Monday.

The project is set to be cleared at the end of June, while the buyer of the LNG and the financial structure underpinning the scheme should be announced by the end of this month, Cooper (Taiwan OTC: 6401.TWO - news) said at an industry conference in Amsterdam.

The choice of Chinese banks reflected the unwillingness of Western institutions to back the project, Cooper said.

"We're close to closing that out," he said in reference to the loan deals.

(Reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic, editing by Louise Heavens)