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By David Sheppard and Jonathan Leff
LONDON/NEW YORK, July 14 Asian commodity trader Noble Group Ltd has joined forces with U.S. private-equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners to launch a new venture aiming to snap up $2 billion in global energy assets.
Harbour Energy Ltd will be helmed by former top Royal Dutch Shell Plc executive Linda Cook, the companies said, with EIG and the new firm's management team overseeing cash raising and acquisitions, with Noble responsible for marketing and logistics.
The move comes as Noble refocuses its business on commodity trading, while many energy majors are shedding once-prized assets to help streamline their operations and return cash to shareholders.
"This transaction represents a significant milestone in the continued implementation of Noble's 'asset light' strategy... while partnering with market-leading asset managers and owners," Noble Chief Executive Officer Yusuf Alireza said.
Cook, 56, spent 29 years with Royal Dutch Shell and was once tipped as a future CEO of the firm, before losing out in a leadership battle with then CFO Peter Voser in 2009.
She was widely credited with building up Shell's natural gas business, a top business at the oil and gas major.
"She is an extraordinarily accomplished senior executive with deep operating and management expertise across all facets of the global energy industry," R. Blair Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of EIG said.
Harbour Energy will initially be seeded with $150 million from Noble and $50 million from EIG, according to a person familiar with the matter.
It aims to raise $2 billion eventually from large investors to buy energy-related projects.
Singapore-listed Noble is one of the world's largest commodity traders, growing rapidly from its Hong Kong roots to post revenues of almost $100 billion last year from trading more than 230 million tonnes of energy and agricultural commodities.
Noble has signed two similar ventures in the past year covering mining and the agricultural sector.
Last September Noble and private-equity group TPG invested $500 million in a mining-related investment venture called X2 Resources led by Mick Davis, the former head of Xstrata.
In April, COFCO Corp, China's largest grain trader, agreed to pay $1.5 billion for a majority stake in Noble's agri business.
Washington-based EIG had more than $15 billion under management as of March, the company said, with 290 energy-related investments over its 32-year history.
Harbour Energy's initial capitalization will be funded solely through the balance sheet of Noble and EIG, the companies said in a statement. (Reporting by David Sheppard in London and Jonathan Leff in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jason Neely)