Ineos-Conoco North Sea Deal Dead

05.02.2019 -

As had been expected, the multi-billion dollar thrust by Ineos to buy North Sea oil fields from ConocoPhillips has run aground on price uncertainties. The US energy major has now confirmed the breakdown of negotiations and said it will engage with other potential bidders.

Potentially interested parties are said to include Chrysaor, a private equity-backed energy company that became a leading North Sea producer after acquiring $3.8 billion worth of assets from Shell in 2017.

Ineos reportedly paid $300 million upfront last autumn for the exclusive right to negotiate a sale with Conoco up to Dec 15. The deadline for agreement was extended twice without the parties coming together.

The chemical producer and would-be energy major is expected to forfeit what commentators said was a “substantial” portion of the deposit it paid to keep the talks exclusive, fearing stiff competition in particular from newer private equity-backed players that are building up a strong presence in the region.

In value terms, a successful outcome would have catapulted Ineos to fifth place among North Sea players. The fields up for grabs were said to worth around about $3 billion before oil prices began spiraling downward.

Brent crude fell from $86 per barrel in early October 2018 to below $50/bbl  between Christmas and New Year, energy analysts said, before rallying back to around $62/bbl. Ironically, the downturn has been blamed on the growth in supplies of US shale, another field Ineos has been eager to move into.

Though shale is booming in the US, between earthquakes and NGO protests Ineos and competitor Cuadrilla have not been able to get their drills moving – despite the carte blanche they’ve received from the UK government.

More and more assets may change hands in the North Sea, according to analysts, as US oil majors withdraw and concentrate on shale back home.