Ineos to Buy DEA’s North Sea Gas Fields
In a sale mandated by the British government, Ineos Upstream, a company recently formed by the Ineos Group to acquire and manage oil and gas assets, has bought 12 gas fields in the North Sea owned by the German-based DEA group. After acquiring a number of licenses for shale gas exploration in Scotland and northern England, Swiss-based Ineos had said it was interested in picking up offshore assets as well in an effort to secure favorably priced feedstock for its chemical complex at Grangemouth, Scotland.
The fields, the largest of which are Breagh and Clipper South in the Southern North Sea, account for about 8% of UK gas production
DEA, formerly owned by German energy group RWE, was sold in March of this year for an estimated €5 billion to LetterOne, an investment vehicle of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman after being greenlighted by the EU Commission and Germany’s economics ministry.
The sale of the company to Fridman, which gave Russia’s second richest man and his co-investors stakes in about 190 oil and gas licenses or concessions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was controversial from the outset, due to tensions between the EU and Russia over Ukraine.
Under a clause in its foreign trade law, Germany could have blocked the deal but declined to do so. RWE was obliged nevertheless to win the approval of other countries in which DEA has activities, including the UK.
In April, energy secretary, Ed Davey, gave LetterOne six months to divest the North Sea or see the company’s operating license revoked. Davy told the British press that it was not in the country’s interest to have fields that could be affected by sanctions against Russians.
Commenting on the buy, Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe said the acquisition of the “high quality, low risk assets” is a “great entry point” for Ineos Upstream. While saying no decisions have yet been made, he remarked that the group “will continue to evaluate other opportunities in the North Sea.”
“Ineos,” Ratcliffe said, “has been very open about its intention to make strategic investments in the North Sea, and this acquisition is our first step in fulfilling this goal. It will also help our UK petrochemical assets to have ongoing access to competitive energy.”
The deal is subject to approval by the European Commission. Ineos said it does not foresee any major issues involved so that a completion date could take place before the end of this year. The group said DEA’s UK business would continue to be run by the existing management team.