Italian gas group Snam is working with UniCredit on the idea of buying a stake in Gas Connect Austria, the pipeline unit of Austrian energy group OMV's, two sources familiar with the matter said, Reuters reported.
One of the sources said the bank was assisting Snam to find out whether such a move might make sense but added nothing had been decided.
Earlier this month press reports cited Snam CEO Carlo Malacarne as saying the company could be interested in buying a stake in Gas Connect Austria, a central hub for gas flows from Eastern to Western Europe.
State-controlled Snam is spending more than 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) until 2018 to upgrade its grid and play a leading role in Europe's plans to make gas supplies more secure.
The company, which has a strategic alliance with Belgium's Fluxys, already controls the Trans Austria Gasleitung GmbH (TAG) pipeline carrying Russian gas into Italy.
Last December it bought a 20 percent stake in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will bring Azerbaijani gas to Italy, as part of moves to grow its footprint and strengthen its ambition to create a southern European gas hub.
OMV, which is 31.5 percent owned by the state, is selling a 49 percent stake in Gas Connect Austria to raise cash to fund investments as oil prices fall.
The group has previously said potential buyers of the stake had expressed "strong interest" with a deal expected in 2016.
On Thursday OMV chief Rainer Seele said he was not ruling out anything in asset swap talks with Russian energy giant Gazprom except Gas Connect Austria.