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£2.3bn deal talks

Ratcliffe’s Ineos bids for Conoco Phillips’ North Sea assets

Jim RatcliffeBritain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured) is planning to shell out more than £2 billion for a major stake in the North Sea oil industry.

Sir Jim’s firm Ineos, which owns a petro-chemicals business at Grangemouth, has confirmed it is negotiating to buy several fields from US energy giant Conoco Phillips valued at up to $3bn (£2.3bn).

A spokesperson for Conoco said it has entered into a three-month exclusivity period for negotiations with Ineos involving its UK assets, excluding Teesside and London. It offered no further details.

Conoco said last week it will market the North Sea assets including its holding in the Clair Field, west of the Shetland Islands, which produces about 21,000 barrels of oil a day.

The firm said it had received an unsolicited approach and intends to start marketing the fields later this year. It would retain the assets if the the offers do not meet its expectations for value.

Conoco sold a 16.5% stake in the Clair field to BP in earlier this year, leaving the company with a 7.5% interest.

It is one of several major oil companies which have been abandoning North Sea projects in recent years, while smaller operators have moved in.

Sir Jim’s appetite for deals has been encouraged in part by earnings from his North American operations. His company last week agreed to acquire a resins business from Ashland Global Holding. for $1.1bn.

The billionaire built Ineos from scratch by borrowing and buying assets from companies, including the oil majors.

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