Enerplus seeks buyer for Marcellus natural gas assets: sources

TORONTO/CALGARY (Reuters) - Canadian energy producer Enerplus Corp ERF.TO has put its natural gas assets in the U.S. Marcellus shale region up for sale, according to three sources familiar with the situation.

The assets could fetch about $500 million, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is not public.

Enerplus, which owns oil and natural gas assets in Canada and the United States, expects the sale to make its asset portfolio more geographically concentrated and allow it to pay down debt, the sources said.

The company’s net debt as of June 30 was about C$700 million ($530 million).

Enerplus could also make an acquisition with the money, one of the sources said.

After the Reuters report, Enerplus shares turned positive and rose as much as 3.8 percent. There were trading at C$9.02, up 2.7 percent, in afternoon trade.

The Marcellus assets, in Pennsylvania, have drawn interest from parties in the United States and Asia, the sources said, adding that private equity firms are the most likely buyers.

Enerplus, which calls the Marcellus shale gas project one of the most economic dry gas plays in North America, did not respond to a request for comment.

The company says on its website that it has oil assets in the Williston Basin in North Dakota, where it expects to spend C$145 million this year. That compares with C$20 million for the Marcellus project.

In a recent investor presentation, Enerplus cited “over $1.2 billion of net divestment proceeds since 2010,” which it said has helped focus the portfolio. Its website lists the Marcellus asset as one of its focus areas.

About 35 percent of the company’s production in 2016 is expected to come from its Marcellus shale business, according to the website.

($1 = 1.3168 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by John Tilak in Toronto and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Sandra Maler