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Shell About to Close Major North Sea Asset Sale

Shell and Chrysaor are in the late stages of negotiating an asset sale deal worth US$3 billion, according to unnamed sources quoted by Reuters. The sale concerns part of the oil giant’s North Sea operations and is likely to be announced at the release of Shell’s 2016 financial results on February 2. It’s part of efforts to bring down its debt load after the US$54-billion acquisition of BG Group. The target value of the divestment program is US$30 billion until 2018.

The deal has been in the making for a few months now, with earlier reports valuing the value of the assets at US$2 billion. The buyer, Chrysaor, is an independent, North Sea-focused explorer, financially backed by private equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners. As the FT reported in December, North Sea assets have proved to be a challenge because some of them are mature and not as attractive as new fields.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Chrysaor has been joined in the negotiations by the largest pension fund in Canada, the Pension Plan Investment Board. Last year, there were reports that Ineos and Siccar Point Energy had also been invited to take part in the race for this particular set of assets, but apparently they had dropped out or pulled out.

Shell has had a hard time following the divestment plan because of the persistently low prices. At the end of September 2016, it had succeeded in selling US$1.7 billion worth of assets, with another US$3.3 billion agreed. Most of these, however, as FT notes, were sales of refining and marketing operations, which are as a rule more attractive because of more consistent margins.

On the flip side, the High Court of London ruled in favor of Shell on an oil spill case brought against it by two Niger Delta communities that claimed the company had damaged the environment and their livelihoods and demanded compensation. The court ruled that the case concerns Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, and the parent cannot be held responsible for the subsidiary’s actions.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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