Mitsubishi buys into North Sea oil sector

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The Independent Online
MITSUBISHI Oil, the big Japanese exploration and refining group, is buying a parcel of North Sea assets from Petrofina, the Belgian group, for about dollars 200m (pounds 136m), writes Neil Thapar.

The deal, which is the first by Mitsubishi in the North Sea, demonstrates growing interest in the sector among the Japanese.

Last February Itochu, the trading and energy conglomerate, paid pounds 73m to Enterprise Oil for a package that included a 25 per cent stake in the Hudson field. Other Japanese companies with interests in the UK sector of the North Sea include Nippon Oil and Sumitomo.

Yesterday's move is part of Mitsubishi's plan to diversify its international energy portfolio. Along with other Japanese groups, it has increased production and exploration interests in South-east Asia.

The companies are also targeting Britain because of its stable political and tax regime and established infrastructure. Simon Boadle of NatWest Markets, adviser to Mitsubishi, said: 'This deal is part of a gradual trend by Japanese companies to increase their exposure in the North Sea and other territories. There are likely to be more deals in the sector as the Japanese gain expertise and confidence. '

Mitsubishi plans to set up a joint venture with Japan National Oil to buy the assets, which include a 30 per cent stake in the Andrew field and a 5 per cent stake in Etap blocks. The purchase price, although not disclosed, is believed to cover Petrofina's share of development costs for the fields.