* Venture acquires 8.9 pct stake in Mariner Field
* Deal highlights growing private equity role in region
* Appoints former BG Group boss Finlayson as chairman
By Ron Bousso
LONDON, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Oil and gas venture Siccar Point said on Tuesday it had acquired a 8.9 percent stake in the UK North Sea Mariner field from JX Nippon, the private equity-backed firm’s first acquisition.
The deal highlights the growing role that such cash-rich ventures are playing in the ageing North Sea basin where oil and gas companies have struggled in recent years to sell assets following a sharp drop in oil prices.
Siccar Point, headed by industry veteran Jonathan Roger, a former Centrica executive, and backed by private equity firm Blue Water Energy and Blackstone, was launched in August 2014 shortly after the start of the oil rout.
“We believe that this is a great time to build a business in the North Sea for a well-capitalised and experienced team,” Roger said in a statement.
The Mariner heavy oil field in the East Shetland region of the North Sea is operated by Norway’s Statoil and is expected to begin production in 2018.
JX Nippon Exploration and Production (U.K.) Limited will retain a 20 percent stake in the field following the deal.
Siccar Point also announced on Tuesday the appointment of former BG Group Chief Executive Chris Finlayson as chairman.
The appetite for private equity investment in the sector fell sharply after oil prices started to slide two years ago. But recent signs of a rebound in prices, coupled with abundant assets on sale around the world, have revived their appetite.
Private equity funds such as Carlyle Group and CVC Partners have all set up management teams in recent years to acquire and manage oil and gas assets. (Editing by David Clarke)