Ratcliffe offers vote of confidence

Ineos moves into North Sea in deal with Russian billionaire

Jim RatcliffeChemicals company Ineos is planning a swoop on bargain-priced North Sea oil and gas assets after confirming a $750m deal to buy gasfields from Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman.

It marks a first move into the region by Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe and is regarded as a voted of confidence on the back of job losses and contraction following the collapse in the oil price.

It is thought Ineos may be about to announce the $1bn-plus acquisition of stakes in oil and gasfields in the Norwegian North Sea owned by Eon.

Mr Ratcliffe is determined to find ways of securing supplies to its operations, including the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemicals plant.

He said this weekend that Ineos had made known its intentions to invest in the North Sea and this was its first step in fulfilling that goal. Specifically, it will help the company’s UK petrochemical assets to have ongoing access to competitive energy.

Mr Ratcliffe is keen to develop a fracking industry across Britain but has been frustrated by opposition from environmentalists and the Scottish government.

Mr Ratcliffe acknowledged in comments to The Sunday Times that the North Sea was “unquestionably inefficient”, but said he was not planning big changes to the newly acquired operations — principally Breagh and Clipper South. The fields largely comprise unmanned platforms and account for up to 8% of UK gas output.

The existing management would stay in place and run the business.

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