ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The Chief Executive of French oil major Total (TOTF.PA) said he would not deny a report that the firm was in talks to sell assets in Nigeria, worth about $2.4 billion, to China’s Sinopec.
A Bloomberg report last week said Asia’s largest refiner China’s Sinopec (600028.SS) was close to buying stakes in Nigerian onshore oil blocks from Total.
“Yes we are discussing with certain buyers about selling certain assets in Nigeria,” said Total CEO Christophe de Margerie, declining to name the potential buyer or value of the deal but saying he would not deny the report.
“But it doesn’t mean we are scared and intend to start some kind of walking out of Nigeria...Total is happy to develop its projects in Nigeria,” he told reporters at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil exporter and oil companies operating there have long had to deal with attacks on their pipelines and staff, with the country’s worst floods in 50 years seriously affecting their output over recent weeks.
The French group said in September it planned to sell assets worth between $15 billion and $20 billion in the period up to 2014 as part of a bolder approach to managing its business, which has seen it buy and sell assets more frequently.
Total declared force majeure in mid-October on gas supplies to Nigeria LNG’s liquefaction plant, saying it had stopped oil and gas production on one onshore block 58, which was losing 90,000 bpd of oil equivalent, in which it has a 40 percent stake.
Total’s head of upstream told reporters at the same press conference in Abu Dhabi that it was still too early to say when production might restart, with flooding still posing problems.
“The water is decreasing, but we still have some problems with the floods,” Yves-Loius Darricare, Total’s head of upstream, said. “I hope we will be able to restart production as soon as we can.”
At least 363 people have been killed due to the floods since the start of July and 2.1 million people have been displaced, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
NEMA said last week the oil-producing Niger Delta region was still flooded but water levels were falling and the heaviest rains had passed as Nigeria enters its 6-month long dry season.
Additional reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Elaine Hardcastle