Oil and Gas

Noble Energy in talks to trim stake in Tamar gas field -media

JERUSALEM, April 10 (Reuters) - Texas-based Noble Energy is in talks with Israeli institutions to sell an 11 percent stake in Israel’s Tamar natural gas field for at least $1 billion due to cash flow needs, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

The Calcalist and TheMarker, two financial newspapers, said Noble is negotiating with Clal Insurance, Harel Insurance and Finance and Menora Mivtachim but did not cite sources or further details of the talks.

A Noble spokeswoman in Tel Aviv declined to comment.

Noble holds a 36 percent stake and Israeli conglomerate Delek Group holds 31 percent and Isramco Negev 29 percent in the Tamar gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast. It contains estimated reserves of nearly 11 trillion cubic feet. Tamar started production in 2013.

Noble in February said it would “monetize” assets - including Tamar - to cope with a slump in oil prices that is eroding cash flows. A more-than 70 percent fall in oil prices since mid-2014 has prompted oil producers to prune portfolios and use proceeds from asset sales to boost liquidity.

Noble and Delek also control the nearby and much larger Leviathan field, which is still undeveloped. Their hold over most of Israel’s natural gas reserves has drawn criticism from public advocacy groups and opposition lawmakers.

As part of a deal signed in December and approved by Israel’s government, Noble was due sell an 11 percent stake in Tamar within six years.

The deal was challenged legally, and last month Israel’s Supreme Court last month barred the government from giving a 10-year guarantee to the companies in order to develop Leviathan.

Noble called the court’s decision “disappointing” and said it risked causing a delay in the $5 billion-$6 billion project to develop the gas field. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)