Marathon Said to Plan Sale of Stake in Gulf of Mexico Assets

Marathon Oil Corp., the U.S. energy producer looking to shed up to $3 billion in assets, is exploring a sale of a stake in some of its Gulf of Mexico assets, people with knowledge of the process said.

Marathon may seek to sell about 30 percent of a venture that comprises the bulk of its Gulf of Mexico assets, and the company is gauging the interest of several potential buyers in Asia before it opens a data room, said the people, who declined to be identified as the talks are private. The Houston-based company may release data on the fields later this month and the stake sale may raise up to $1 billion, one of the people said.

Marathon said Nov. 1 it would sell $1.5 billion to $3 billion assets over the next two to three years to reinvest in other operations. The company is getting rid of assets that aren’t a priority, including pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico, and pursuing acquisitions to more than double its exploration acreage in Texas’s Eagle Ford shale formation.

Marathon plans to ask for initial bids in January, and Japan’s Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Inpex Corp. and Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., as well as China Petrochemical Corp. and China National Offshore Oil Corp. are among the potential Asian buyers approached, one of the people said.

Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was halted last year after an explosion at BP Plc’s Macondo well off the Louisiana coast killed 11 people, spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil and halted exploration in the region.

Marathon said in August it plans to increase its U.S. onshore rigs to more than 40 from 15 in the next 18 months as it focuses on expanding drilling in shale formations rich in petroleum liquids such as Eagle Ford as well as the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana. The company completed the spinoff of its refining and marketing business on June 30.

Representatives for Marathon, Japan Petroleum Exploration, Inpex, Sinopec and Cnooc declined to comment. Kazuhisa Kawamura, a spokesman for Mitsui, said he was unaware of any approach from Marathon.

Marathon is also exploring a sale of a stake in Angolan operations for as much as $800 million, two people with knowledge of the process said yesterday.

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