7 November 2012

Nigeria: Sinopec to Acquire Nigerian Oil Blocks From Total

Photo: Dulue Mbachu/IRIN
Environmental damage from an oil spill in Kegbara-Dere in the Ogoni district of the Niger Delta. Residents say the spill is more than 10 years old. Nigeria.

China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) has signed a preliminary deal to buy stakes in Nigerian onshore oil blocks from French oil major, Total for about $2.4 billion, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the deal.

The French group said in September that 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.

The divestment, according to the French oil major, will also enable it raise cash for oil and gas projects.

Total's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Christophe de Margerie, said most of that will come from the exploration and production division.

China's state-backed energy companies are seeking new oil and gas reserves abroad to feed the world's second-largest economy, especially in regions like Africa where government scrutiny is lighter than in North America or Europe.

The news wire also cited two people familiar with the matter to have hinted that Sinopec has also approached the French oil firm, Maurel et Prom (MAU), which operates in Gabon, about an acquisition,

Nigeria was tied with Norway last year as Total's biggest source of hydrocarbons, accounting for 287,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, or about 12 per cent of the total. The company plans to pump 3 million barrels a day of oil and gas in 2017.

Total's asset-sale target, announced during an annual investor conference in London last month, compares with $15 billion of "finalised" sales in 2010 and 2011, according to figures given in February. A portion of these, the report added, came from the divestment of shares in French drugmaker Sanofi.

Total has quickened the pace of deals in recent years as part of a policy to "actively manage" its portfolio of exploration acreage, refineries and pipelines around the world.

The Paris-based company agreed last year to sell its stake in the Norwegian Gassled pipeline system, while de Margerie has said he is studying a sale of the TIGF network in southern France.

Total also sold a stake in a Spanish oil refiner and tried to sell the Lindsey refinery in the U.K.

Sinopec's reserves of crude oil declined from 3.3 billion barrels in 2007 to 2.8 billion barrels at the end of last year, enough for nine years of production at 2011 levels, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Its parent, China Petrochemical (1314), said in January that it will seek to produce 50 million metric tons of crude a year overseas by 2015. Last year, foreign production was 23 million tons.

China Petrochemical bought Addax Petroleum Corp. in 2009, adding reserves in Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon.

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