Statoil sale highlights attraction of North Sea

Picture: Getty

Picture: Getty

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Norwegian oil and gas giant Statoil today struck a $2.75 billion (£1.7bn) deal to sell stakes in assets including fields in the North Sea to Austria’s OMV.

The move will free up capital for Statoil to develop a number of other projects but the company stressed that it remained committed to its interests in the North Sea which include the massive Mariner field.

The sale agreement, which analysts said represented a comfortable premium to the asset’s book value, includes stakes in BP’s Schiehallion and Chevron’s Rosebank fields west of the Shetlands, as well as ones in the Norwegian North Sea.

The deal underlines a rebound in North Sea investments driven by a string of discoveries as well as high oil prices and better recovery technology.

As part of the sale, OMV has also agreed to buy stakes in the Gullfaks field and the Gudrun development project on the Norwegian continental shelf.

Analysts said that the sale represented a good deal for Statoil.

ABG oil sector analyst John Olaisen said: “This is a very good price: it’s at two times book value while Statoil itself trades at 1.3 times book value.

“It shows that Europeans are positive about the Norwegian continental shelf.”

OMV will cover Statoil’s capital expenditure between 1 January and the closing of the deal, meaning it could be worth as much $3.15bn in total.

It also agreed optional co-operation in 11 of Statoil’s exploration licences in the Faroe Islands, the Norwegian North Sea and in the area to the west of Shetland.

The cash gives Statoil a sizeable budget to fund new projects, push on with exploration and appease investors worried about soaring capital expenditure.

Statoil chief executive Helge Lund said that the proceeds would be used to reinvest in high-return projects.

“It will increase our financial flexibility in the sense it releases $7bn in future capital expenditure from these assets.”

Statoil needs to pay for the development of the giant Johan Sverdrup field in the Norwegian North Sea, which it estimates could hold up to 3.3 billion barrels of oil, as well as huge discoveries in Brazil, Tanzania and Norway, while simultaneously pushing ahead with an aggressive exploration portfolio.

The Norwegian company will also join Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy in its Arctic exploration programme next year off the coast of Greenland.

Lund said the deal would not affect its ability to deliver on its 2.5 million-barrel target for 2020.

OMV said it would use proceeds from divesting petrol stations in the Balkans, its lubricants business and a stockholding unit to partially fund the deal, which it said should contribute more than $500m a year to operating profit from 2014, assuming stable oil prices.

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