Statoil exits Shah Deniz gas project with stake sale to Petronas

Mon Oct 13, 2014 7:51am EDT
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By Gwladys Fouche and Terje Solsvik

OSLO (Reuters) - Statoil (STL.OL: Quote) exited Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas project on Monday, selling a 15.5-percent stake to Malaysia's Petronas [PETRA.UL] for $2.25 billion as part of asset sales to shore up returns to shareholders.

Like other oil majors, Norway's Statoil has been selling assets amid rising costs and falling oil prices. It earlier sold a 10 percent stake in Shah Deniz.

French oil major Total (TOTF.PA: Quote) sold out of Shah Deniz in May saying it would focus on operating projects rather than holding minority stakes.

Monday's deal also includes Statoil's stakes in a South Caucasus pipeline company and two other firms.

"The divestment optimizes our portfolio and strengthens our financial flexibility to prioritize industrial development and high-value growth," Lars Christian Bacher, Statoil's head of development and production activities outside Norway, said in a statement.

Teodor Sveen Nilsen, an analyst at Swedbank who holds a "buy" recommendation on the stock, said the sale was a positive move.

"This is yet another sign of Statoil’s priority of value over volume, focus on ROACE (return on average capital employed), cash flow and dividend capacity," Nilsen said in a note to clients.

The Shah Deniz field is operated by BP (BP.L: Quote) with partners TPAO of Turkey, Azerbaijan's SOCAR, Russian oil firm Lukoil (LKOH.MM: Quote) and Iran's Nico (Naftiran Intertrade Co).   Continued...

A general view of Statoil's office is seen in Stavanger in this January 18, 2013 file photo provided by NTB Scanpix. REUTERS/Kent Skibstad/NTB Scanpix