ConocoPhillips is in talks to sell a package of North Sea assets to explorer Chrysaor Holdings Ltd. after earlier discussions with U.K. billionaire Jim Ratcliffe collapsed, people with knowledge of the matter said.
An agreement would end a troubled sale process for the Houston-based company, which is divesting the oil fields as it turns its attention to U.S. shale exploration. Conoco opened up the bidding in January after efforts to sell the assets to Ratcliffe’s Ineos for as much as $3 billion failed.
Private equity-backed Chrysaor is the front-runner for a deal with the U.S. driller, which could be announced in the coming weeks, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the process is private. The discussions aren’t final and won’t necessarily result in an agreement, while other bidders could still emerge, they said.
Conoco declined to comment. The company has been shedding more mature fields in the U.K. as it shifts focus. It agreed to sell a 16.5 percent stake in the North Sea’s Clair Field to BP Plc last year, swapping it for a position in Alaska. It also intends to cut 450 positions in Britain by 2020 after stopping southern North Sea production through the Theddlethorpe Gas Terminal in 2018.
If Chrysaor were ultimately able to complete a deal, that would significantly increase its overall production. The company’s current portfolio is capable of producing 125,000 barrels a day, it says on its website. The Conoco assets may add 60,000 barrels a day to the total, according to a November estimate from GlobalData oil analyst Daniel Rogers.