ExxonMobil May Sell Gassled Stake

LONDON (Dow Jones)

Oil major ExxonMobil (XOM) Thursday said it is marketing its near 10% stake in Norway's Gassled joint venture, a year after rumors first emerged that it was looking to get out of the asset.

"We have gone out and are marketing our share in the Gassled [gas] transportation system," ExxonMobil Public Affairs Director Kristin Kragseth told Dow Jones Newswires.

She couldn't comment on the time scale of the process, or speculate on potential bidders, but said: "We will only sell if we receive an acceptable offer."

A year ago, Dow Jones Newswires said Exxon was in talks with the Norwegian oil and gas ministry about the possible sale of its stake in Gassled, a consortium of oil and gas companies including StatoilHydro ASA (STO), Total (TOT), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), Eni SpA (E), DONG A/S and ConocoPhillips (COP). Gassled owns Norway's gas transportation system.

Kragseth said the sale is the result of Exxon's long-standing and continuous review of its portfolio and denied that the divestment demonstrates that the company is losing interest in Norway.

"We are committed to our investment in the North Sea and will continue to be an active investor in both liquids and gas [assets]," she said, adding: "We don't see being an owner in Gassled as critical for our continued presence there. We will still be able to use that service."

ExxonMobil is Norway's second-biggest annual producer, behind StatoilHydro, producing 10% of the country's output. Norway represents 10% of Exxon's global production, and the company has invested more than $1 billion annually in the country in recent years, Kragseth said.

A sale would be subject to approval by Norway's ministry of petroleum and energy, which couldn't immediately comment on Exxon's Gassled sale plans. Last August, when rumors first surfaced, market watchers suggested potential buyers could be other Gassled stakeholders, the Norwegian government or one or more entirely new players, such as the Netherlands' Gasunie.

It wasn't able to immediately comment on whether it was interested.

Norway's gas transport system costs about 5 billion Norwegian kroner ($824.09 billion) to run each year. Outgoings are covered by tariffs charged to gas shippers.

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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