LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - Oil major Shell may take up to a year to complete a planned sale of assets in Nigeria, and the process may be complicated by an election, the oil major’s chief financial officer said.
Shell is looking to make $15 billion in disposals worldwide this year and next, including the sale of its stake in four oil blocks in the Niger Delta, an area that holds a large share of Nigeria’s 37 billion barrels of oil reserves.
“We can come to a good commercial agreement,” CFO Simon Henry said in a conference call with investors on Wednesday.
“What is slightly more challenging and difficult to predict is how we can get the overall approvals across the whole of the stakeholder environment including the government, because in previous transactions that has taken ... up to a year.”
An election planned for February could have an impact on the sale process, he said, without specifying in what way.
He said the Nigerian assets have attracted strong interest from potential buyers.
Shell is divesting 30 percent of the four blocks, along with the sale of 10 percent from Total and 5 percent from Eni. Analysts have estimated the value of the combined 45 percent at around $3 billion.
“We’ve had over 20 serious bidders mostly in consortium, with a Nigerian operator often with overseas operational financial or operational backing,” Henry said.
In the over 70 years that Shell has operated in Africa’s largest oil-producing country, it has faced serious problems on the Delta with oil theft, environmental damage, political protests and attacks on its facilities.
As part of any deal, the oil major wants minimize its exposure to further risks there.
“Clearly the terms of the sale aim to establish baselines against which we carry no liability if there are environmental or other issues after the point of sale. (Whether) that can hold up in the future remains to be seen.”
Even after selling off the assets, Shell may still be affected by its history in the Delta.
“It will always be difficult to detach the Shell name from some of the activities in the Delta. We have eyes open on this, but the legal protection will be solid,” Henry said.#
“The reputational liability is impossible to divest,” he added. (editing by Jane Baird)