LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) – BP has agreed to sell its stake in one of Europe's biggest gas pipelines to Antin Infrastructure Partners for 324 million pounds ($486 million), giving the fund near full ownership of the asset after it bought out BG last year.
The sale of the Central Area Transmission System (CATS), which is expected to conclude before the end of the year, is a next step in BP's $10 billion 2014-2015 disposal programme.
CATS is a combination of pipeline and processing facilities that transport gas from a cluster of North Sea fields to an onshore receiving terminal in Britain's Teesside.
It can handle more than 48 million cubic metres of gas per day, transporting over 10 percent of Britain's annual gas production and making it one of the largest in Europe.
BP said the sale would not impact its rights to capacity use on the system.
"CATS has been a great business for BP but...we believe securing this new owner will ensure a better long-term future for this key piece of North Sea infrastructure," said Trevor Garlick, BP's regional president for the North Sea.
BP's CATS staff is expected to transfer to Antin. The fund said it does not plan to make any redundancies.
Last year, gas producer BG sold its own stake in CATS to Antin Infrastructure Partners for nearly $1 billion. Once the acquisition of BP's equity completes, the fund will own 99 percent of CATS.
Antin has launched a tender to seek a company to operate CATS on its behalf.
"We have exciting plans to grow and develop CATS through additional investment," said Mark Crosbie, managing partner of Antin Infrastructure Partners.
The fund also said it had recruited BP's vice president of commercial operations in the North Sea, Andy Hessell, to lead the Antin CATS management team.
Antin, which specialises in European energy, transport and telecoms investments, owns interests in assets such as solar plants, terminal operator Europort or motorway services operator Roadchef.
($1 = 0.6665 pounds)
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps, editing by William Hardy and Susan Thomas)
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