Itochu buys North Sea interests

THE market for North Sea oil assets received a further boost after Enterprise Oil, the UK independent, sold some interests to Itochu, the Japanese conglomerate, for dollars 106m (pounds 73m).

Several UK companies have announced deals with foreign buyers in the past few weeks. Lasmo, the struggling independent, last week raised pounds 126m from the sale of two parcels of assets to German and US buyers.

Over the past two years, there has been a shortage of buyers for North Sea assets due to weak oil prices. But the recent deal has raised hopes of improving conditions for asset trading.

Itochu's purchase is the first by the company in the North Sea and suggests that the sector is still attractive to foreign buyers due to its infrastructure and political stability. John Walmsley, Enterprise's finance director, said: 'This sale shows that good quality assets can still attract buyers at sensible prices.'

Enterprise has sold its 25 per cent interest in the Hudson field, together with stakes of 8.6 per cent and 26 per cent in the Hutton and North West Hutton fields. Hudson is due to start production with a initial daily output of 9,800 barrels late this year, while the Hutton blocks produce 4,500 bpd.

The group will use the proceeds to cut debts, which amounted to 40 per cent of net assets.

British Petroleum has sold a US nitrogen chemical subsidiary to Arcadian Partners, a local manufacturer, for dollars 100m.

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