STATOIL SELLS $1.25 BLN
Statoil has sold a further tranche of North Sea oil and gas assets to Wintershall for $1.25bn, extending the interests of the German energy group in Norwegian waters.
The state-backed Norwegian oil operator is to sell its minority stakes in two producing fields northwest of Bergen, helping raise Wintershall's production off the country's coast from 40,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
The key element of the deal, however, is the move by the energy arm of the German industrial group BASF to acquire stakes in Statoil fields further to the north that will require several billions of dollars to develop.
Wintershall will acquire a fifth stake in the Asterix discovery and a quarter stake in the nearby Aasta Hansteen project. Statoil will remain operator and maintain 51 per cent stakes.
The German group is also acquiring stakes in related pipeline networks and in exploration licences in northern Norwegian waters where Centrica of the UK also holds interests.
The deal follows a $1.45bn agreement with Statoil announced last October, which also increased Wintershall's exposure to Norway's upstream oil and gas sector.
Arne Sigve Nylund, Statoil's president for development and production for Norway, said the sale was part of a strategy of selling down non-core assets to concentrate on developing key discoveries.
Statoil is expected to book a gain of between $700,000 and $900,000 on completion of the transaction. It is also expected to shave $1.8bn off the company's capital expenditure budget between now and 2020 and contribute towards a total $20bn of divestments made since 2010.
Helge Lund, chief executive of the Norwegian oil major, announced plans to scale back both Statoil's spending and production plans earlier this year, as part of a wave of commitments among the world's leading oil companies to improve their capital discipline.
Despite its divestments, Statoil said on Friday it remained committed to an annual $20bn investment target in the three years to 2016. This included spending on the completion of its Gudrun project which began production in April – the first new Statoil-operated platform on the Norwegian continental shelf since 2005.
Last year Wintershall became the first company to take over a producing platform from Statoil in Norway when it took over the Brage field.
"With the acquisition of these shares in oil and gasfields, we are continuing on our growth course in Norway and intensifying the co-operation with our partner Statoil," said Kurt Bock, chairman of BASF.
Shares in Statoil rose by 0.7 per cent to NKr176.80 on Friday.
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