BP has agreed to sell $400m of North Sea gas assets to Perenco of France as part of its strategy of offloading $1bn of ageing British fields to concentrate on new projects in UK and Norwegian waters.

The deal follows its move last May to sell Wytch Farm, the UK’s largest onshore oilfield, along with other onshore assets, to the privately held French energy group for up to $610m in cash.

The transaction takes BP a further step towards reaching its target of $38bn in asset sales between 2010 and 2013 as part of a restructuring plan following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. So far it has announced $23bn of disposals.

BP originally signalled its intention to sell the unit, which contains a number of manned and unmanned facilities, in February.

Trevor Garlick, regional president for BP North Sea, said the divestment represented a refocusing of efforts rather than a withdrawal from the North Sea oil and gas province. BP had four major field development projects in the UK and a further two in Norway under way, he said.

“Together with our partners, BP is currently progressing projects in the UK offshore that will involve a total investment of £10bn over the next five years – representing the highest level of annual investment BP has ever made into the UK’s offshore industry,” he added.

The announcement comes a week after the UK chancellor announced plans to create more certainty over the treatment of tax allowances against the decommissioning of platforms and pipelines serving maturing oil and gasfields.

Industry lobby group Oil & Gas UK said the plans would help a new wave of investment and unlock the stalled sale of many maturing assets to small operators by larger energy groups.

BP

The sale announcement coincided with results from EnQuest, whose shares were among those hit hardest by last year’s £2bn tax raid on UK oil and gas companies. On Tuesday it announced a trebling of capital spending plans as it welcomed the Budget’s measures.

Amjad Bseisu, chief executive, said: “The Budget makes the UK more competitive and enhances the ability to bring more fields on.”

The company, which raised revenues by half from $614m to $936m and delivered an advance in pre-tax profits from $56m to $362m in the year to December, had continued to buy North Sea assets in anticipation of some easing in this year’s Budget, said Mr Bseisu.

EnQuest, whose shares fell 2.3p to 129½ p on Tuesday, said it would raise its capital expenditure on development from $361m last year to about $1bn this year and remained open to further acquisitions.

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