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Maersk Oil eyes Shell’s North Sea assets ahead of a planned spin-off

AP Moller-Maersk is in talks to buy a portfolio of North Sea assets from Royal Dutch Shell as the Danish group considers adding scale to its oil and gas business ahead of a planned spin-off, banking sources said.

Maersk yesterday announced a major overhaul that will see it focus on its core transport and logistics businesses, while looking at options for its energy division within 24 months that could include a joint venture, merger or listing.

Maersk has said over the past year that it planned to invest several billions of dollars to expand its oil operations, although it is now likely to face bigger financial pressures given a rout in earnings from shipping, weak oil prices and the loss of a major oil contract in Qatar.

Maersk Oil has held talks in recent weeks about buying a large part of the North Sea portfolio that Shell is seeking to sell as part of a three-year, $30 billion divestment plan following its purchase of BG Group earlier this year, banking sources involved in the talks told Reuters.

The assets under discussion are valued at around $2 billion, they added.

Shell and Maersk Oil declined to comment.

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