Exclusive: Maersk Oil eyes Shell's North Sea assets ahead of spin-off

Thu Sep 22, 2016 9:39am EDT
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By Ron Bousso and Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) - A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO: Quote) is in talks to buy a portfolio of North Sea assets from Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote) as the Danish group considers adding scale to its oil and gas business ahead of a planned spin off, banking sources said.

Maersk announced on Thursday a major overhaul that will see it focus on its core transport and logistics businesses, while looking at options for its energy division within 24 months that could include a joint venture, merger or listing.

Maersk has said over the past year that it planned to invest several billions of dollars to expand its oil operations, although it is now likely to face bigger financial pressures given a rout in earnings from shipping, weak oil prices and the loss of a major oil contract in Qatar.

Maersk Oil has held talks in recent weeks about buying a large part of the North Sea portfolio that Shell is seeking to sell as part of a three-year, $30 billion divestment plan following its purchase of BG Group earlier this year, banking sources involved in the talks told Reuters.

The assets under discussion are valued at around $2 billion, they added.

Shell and Maersk Oil declined to comment.

Although the aging UK North Sea is considered a relatively costly oil region, Maersk - which already has assets there - believes it can reduce the costs of running Shell's fields as well as the costs of dismantling and cleaning up assets nearing the end of their production lives, the sources said.

Explaining Maersk's options for its energy business, one source with knowledge of the process said: "They could look to bulk it up potentially with merger combinations before an exit – the key is to make it attractive to get the value they want."   Continued...

Crew members look out from the container ship, the MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, as it berths during its maiden port of call at a PSA International port terminal in Singapore September 27, 2013.     REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo