Total buys Maersk's North Sea oil assets for £5.8bn

Industry has been consolidating as a response to low oil price since 2014

Total logo
Logo of French energy giant Total
(Image credit: Denis Charlet, AFP)

The French oil giant Total has bought a large portfolio of mature oil and gas exploration assets in the North Sea from the Danish conglomerate Maersk for $7.45bn (£5.8bn).

The move is the latest in a wave of consolidation that has gripped the sector in recent years in response to the low oil price.

"Companies [are] managing the effects of lower oil prices by reducing their portfolios or seeking economies of scale," says the Financial Times.

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For Maersk the deal follows through on its plan, announced last September, to abandon the oil sector altogether as it seeks to cement its position as "the world's largest container shipping line".

Maersk recently boosted its container business by buying Hamburg Sud, a German rival with a strong position in Latin America, for $4bn (£3.1bn).

The deal with Total has been settled entirely in shares, but given the big premium to the $4.7bn (£3.7bn) at which Deutsche Bank had valued the assets Maersk shareholders won't mind, says Bloomberg.

In fact Maersk's shares, which have risen 30 per cent since the September announcement, have risen by another 2.8 per cent at the time of writing.

For Total, the deal builds on its large existing presence in the North Sea and means it will become the second-largest exploration firm in the region, behind Norway's Statoil.

As such, bosses reckon they can extract "mouth-watering synergies of $400m (£310m) annually", says Bloomberg, and this will "boost earnings and cashflow per share from the get-go".

Total's share price was up 0.5 per cent at the time of writing in a modestly falling market.

Brent crude, the international oil price benchmark that sets prices in the North Sea region, was down 1.1 per cent to $52.13 a barrel, as traders took profits following a rally at the end of last week.

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