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Noble latest oil group to sell its assets

NOBLE Energy, the US oil group, is pulling out of the North Sea, it is understood, as it auctions off its European arm.<br /><br />The sale, which has a price tag of $350m (&pound;210m), follows a series of firms leaving the area as a slump in production and tax increases at the Treasury hit the sector.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not unusual to see large companies selling off their assets, and it leaves room for smaller firms to come into the area,&rdquo; a spokesperson for UK Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Association said. <br /><br />&ldquo;As far as tax rates go, we maintain that there is a need, not for reductions necessarily, but a stable regime. The two big recent tax hikes reflect a climate which is not good for business,&rdquo; she added.<br /><br />Rivals Maersk, which is based in Denmark and Canadian companies Nexen and Talisman, are all thought to be likely bidders. <br /><br />But interest in the assets, which include holdings in 12 fields, and produces 11,000 barrels a day, is likely to be low, as many oil groups seek to restructure their companies, flooding the market.<br /><br />Scotia Waterous, a large oil and gas merger and acquisition company, has been appointed to sell off the branch.<br /><br />The deadline for the bid is 21 October.<br /><br />New chief executive Chuck Davidson is shaking up the company. Earlier this month he said his group had formed a deal with mining giant BHP Billiton, where it swapped a 30 per cent stake in the Gulf of Mexico for a nearby project called Deep Blue.<br /><br />&ldquo;BHP really brought us an opportunity that was very unique,&rdquo; Davidson said at the time. <br /><br />&ldquo;They took a 30 per cent interest in Deep Blue and we took a 30 per cent interest in their Double Mountain prospect,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />The exchange allows for more extensive exploration for the two companies.