PARIS/OSLO (Reuters) - French oil and gas major Total (TOTF.PA) said on Monday it had agreed to sell its stakes in two Norwegian oilfields to Statoil (STL.OL) for $1.45 billion as it reviews its North Sea portfolio after acquiring Denmark’s Maersk Oil in August.
The company said Statoil will take over its 51 percent stake in the Martin Linge field and its 40 percent holding in the Garantiana discovery on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.
“The forthcoming acquisition of Maersk Oil... leads us to review our portfolio in this area so as to focus on the assets in which Total will be able to generate synergies and reduce their break-even points,” Arnaud Breuillac, Total’s head of exploration and production, said in a statement.
The company said that although Norway remains strategically important as one of the largest contributors to its output, it plans to focus on its non-operated assets such as Ekofisk, Snohvit and Johan Sverdrup fields.
Total’s decision to scale back its presence in Norway, focusing on non-operated assets, follows a recent trend among foreign oil majors, including BP (BP.L) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), to become junior partners in Norwegian fields and concentrate their exploration and field management in less mature regions.
Some have gone even further, with U.S. oil company Hess last month announcing the sale of its Norwegian assets altogether and plans to also divest from the Danish parts of the North Sea.
Total said there was limited scope for Total to improve operations in the Martin Linge field which was its only operated asset in Norway, while Statoil was in a better position to optimize the asset. The estimated recoverable resources of the field is in excess of 300 million barrels oil equivalent.
The Martin Linge development has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, with the latest investment estimate seen at 41.3 billion Norwegian crowns ($5.1 billion), about 42 percent more than originally anticipated.
The field is expected to start production in 2019 after a one year delay following a fatal accident in May at a South Korean yard building the platform for the field, raising the cost for the project.
Total is also the largest investor in the Garantiana discovery, which is being developed.
Total’s shares were down 0.5 percent by 0839 GMT, while Statoil was down 0.54 percent.
Reporting by Bate Felix and Terje Solsvik; Editing by Richard Lough and Susan Fenton