* Proposed deal based on an enterprise value of $1.6 billion
* Companies have agreed to continue talks on an exclusive basis
* Sapura shares rise as much as 4.5 percent after the announcement (Adds comments, other details)
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s largest oil and gas services company Sapura Energy Bhd on Wednesday said it would sell a 50 percent stake in its upstream business to Austria’s OMV.
The proposed deal is based on an enterprise value of $1.6 billion, Sapura said, adding the companies have agreed to continue talks on an exclusive basis.
Sapura shares rose as much as 4.5 percent after the announcement, which comes weeks after the firm said it was planning to raise 4 billion ringgit ($963.86 million) through a proposed rights issue, in a bid to boost its financial position and pare down debt.
“We have explored all options including the potential listing of our Upstream business,” Shahril Shamsuddin, Sapura’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
“The invitation to enter into this strategic partnership with a leading oil and gas player serves our goals and aspirations better while providing certainty in timing and valuation,” Shahril said.
Sapura has a market capitalisation of about $484.5 million, while OMV has a valuation of about $16.9 billion, Thomson Reuters data shows.
Last week, OMV’s head of exploration and production, Johann Pleininger, told Reuters in an interview it had plans to expand its exploration business with an acquisition in Southeast Asia by the end of 2018.
Earlier this year, the Austrian firm expanded its operations in New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, to balance geopolitical risks it faces in its operations in countries like Russia, Libya and Yemen.
OMV has set aside 10 billion euros ($11.59 billion) for acquisitions until 2025.
Sapura’s Shahril said the strategic partnership with OMV will complement their continued strategy “to grow our portfolio and expand our acreage position”.
“The partnership will sharpen Sapura Energy’s competitive advantage by leveraging on the strength of its portfolio of commercially viable gas fields offshore Sarawak and its acreage in new markets in New Zealand, Gulf of Mexico and most recently, Australia,” Shahril said.
Sapura reported a loss in the quarter ended April, its third consecutive quarterly loss. ($1 = 4.1500 ringgit) ($1 = 0.8628 euros) (Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Liz Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)