May 24, 2013 / 11:53 AM / in 4 years

Sinopec's Addax seeks more North Sea investments

* Says evaluating several targets, hopes for 2013 deal

* Follows two multi-billion Chinese purchases last year

* Addax traditionally strong in west Africa

By Emma Farge

GENEVA, May 24 (Reuters) - Sinopec subsidiary Addax Petroleum wants to buy more North Sea assets this year, its Chief Executive said, in a sign that Chinese firms may further boost their regional investments after two multi-billion deals in 2012.

Addax, a Swiss-based oil producer and explorer which was bought by China’s top refiner in 2009 for more than $7 billion, first entered the North Sea last July with the purchase of a 49 percent stake in Canada’s Talisman.

In the same month, state-controlled CNOOC announced a $15.1 billion deal to take over Canada’s Nexen - giving the two firms control of 13 percent of UK oil production, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

“We have a competitive advantage because of Sinopec. They have strength in developing brownfield sites and we can leverage that,” Yi Zhang told Reuters, referring to oil assets that are already operational.

“There are several targets at the evaluation stage. I believe that this year something will be done,” he added.

The comments comes at a time of growing confidence in the mature North Sea region, despite a drop in production by around two thirds since 2000 as oil fields mature.

British oil major BP said in March it would proceed with a $500 million-plus investment near the remote Shetland Islands and last year Japanese trading firm Mitsui entered the North Sea for the first time.

The investment surge prompted industry body Oil & Gas UK to forecast earlier this year a pick-up in production from 2014 onwards.

Zhang did not give details of Addax’s acquisition targets, adding only it was most likely to target another joint venture partnership similar to the Talisman one.

“We are looking at partnerships, not just pure acquisitions,” he said.

Addax has traditionally been strong in west Africa and is one of the largest independent producers in Nigeria.

But its future in one of its key markets, Gabon, is in question after the government seized its Obangue field last year.

Officials have since warned it could lose its licence to operate in the country for failing to pay customer duties and comply with other laws.

Zhang declined to comment on Addax’s Gabon operations.

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