BP and GDF Suez, the French utility, have separately put their interests in two gasfields in the North Sea on the block as the sell-off of mature assets in the region gathers pace.
BP has put its 27.5 per cent interest in Shearwater, a gas field, up for sale, according to people familiar with the situation. Bankers estimate the stake could be worth about $300m (£184m).
The UK oil group, which has been selling assets to help pay for the costs associated with last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill, this year disposed of its interest in the Wytch Farm onshore oilfield in Dorset. It is still in talks to sell its gasfields in the southern North Sea, including associated pipeline infrastructure.
BP declined to comment on the disposal but stressed that the North Sea remained a key area of focus for the group. Six of the company’s 32 main projects are in the North Sea and it intends to spend $2.5bn of capital investment in the region this year. BP last month confirmed it would proceed with the £3bn redevelopment of the giant Schiehallion field west of Shetland with partners.
Separately, GDF Suez, the French utility that last week unveiled a deal to sell a 30 per cent interest to China’s sovereign wealth fund, has put its 10.4 per cent stake in West Franklin, one of the deepest, high-pressure and high-temperature fields developed on the UK continental shelf to date, up for sale for an estimated €600m (£525m).
GDF Suez holds its interest through its shareholding in Elgin Franklin Oil & Gas, a joint venture with France’s Total. GDF Suez, which declined to comment, is in advanced talks with an unnamed buyer for the stake, which was originally part of the discussions with China Investment Corporation.
The disposals are the latest in a series as primarily large integrated oil companies seek to take advantage of high oil prices to find buyers for mature assets. ExxonMobil and Chevron are among those to have put assets up for sale in recent months.
But bankers say many deals have been hampered by the UK government’s surprise decision in March to increase the tax on North Sea production.
Another issue that has discouraged deals has been the government’s separate decision to reduce tax relief on oil and gas field decommissioning costs.
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