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Engie head of exploration to leave after Neptune takeover
July 11, 2017 / 6:11 AM / 4 months ago

Engie head of exploration to leave after Neptune takeover

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Maria Moraeus Hanssen, chief executive of French Engie’s exploration and production business, said she will vacate her position following the $3.9 billion takeover of the unit by private equity-backed Neptune Oil & Gas.

Moraeus Hanssen, a petroleum engineer and economist, has headed Engie’s E&P business since October 2015 and oversaw the unit’s sale to Neptune, part of Engie’s strategy to sell 15 billion euro worth of assets until 2018 as it shifts focus to energy grids and services.

“I‘m not going to stay on. We’ll have to see what I‘m going to do,” Moraeus Hanssen told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of an industry conference in Istanbul.

The deal is set to close in late 2017 or early next year.

Neptune declined to comment.

New owner Neptune, which is backed by private equity funds The Carlyle Group and CVC Capital Partners, will likely mean a return to more daring exploration investments for the business, Moraeus Hanssen said.

“The good news for E&P employees is now they have dedicated owners who want to invest in E&P,” she said.

Engie’s E&P business was loss-making in 2015 and 2016, hit hard by writedowns on the back of weak oil prices like its peers in the business.

As a result of poor returns in the business and Engie’s strategy shift, the group has been investing less in its oil and gas business, with total capital expenditure on the unit dropping below 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) last year.

Engie’s E&P business, which mainly consists of assets in the Norwegian, British and Dutch parts of the North Sea, has lately focused on finding fresh resources in areas close to existing fields.

“We will go deeper and we will look at maybe things that we left behind, like the tighter and deeper zones,” Moraeus Hanssen said, highlighting a wider industry trend of dropping riskier frontier exploration in favor of nearfield oil searches since prices started falling three years ago.

Growth for the business lies within expanding organically like this but also within acquiring new assets in areas where Engie is present, like Britain’s gas-rich southern North Sea basin, Moraeus Hanssen said.

“We would be looking at stuff that will be where we already are. This is Europe, North Africa and southeast Asia.”

Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Stephen Coates

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