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Sonangol to Buy Stake in Angola Exploration Block From Total

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May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Sonangol Pesquisa & Producao SA, an exploration unit of Angolan state oil producer Sonangol EP, plans to buy a stake in an offshore block from Total SA as the French company offloads assets to bolster its balance sheet.

Total will sell a 15 percent holding in the 15-06 zone operated by Eni SpA, according to a Feb. 28 decree allowing the sale and seen by Bloomberg this week. While the block isn’t yet producing, development began early last year.

“Talks are ongoing,” Anastasia Zhivulina, a spokeswoman for Total, said by telephone from Paris, declining to give a price. Nadiejda Santos, a spokeswoman for Sonangol, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Total, France’s largest oil producer, plans to sell as much as $20 billion of assets from 2012 to 2014 as it raises cash to boost output from new fields. The company follows BP Plc and others in stepping up sales to buoy funds. For Sonangol, the purchase will expand its search for crude after it pledged to spend $8.8 billion on exploration in a decade.

Total’s recent African divestments include 10 percent of Angola’s Block 14 to Japan’s Inpex Corp. and 20 percent of Nigeria’s OML 38 license to China Petrochemical Corp. Sonangol, already holding a 15 percent stake in the 15-06 area, has right of first refusal on any partner’s share in the event of a sale.

Statoil, Falcon

Eni and Sonangol Sinopec International Angola Lda. each hold 25 percent of the 15-06 zone. Norway’s Statoil ASA and closely held Falcon Oil Holding SA Angola control 5 percent each. Bard Glad Pedersen, Statoil’s Angola manager, declined to comment when asked whether the company may also sell its stake. Calls and an e-mail to Falcon Oil weren’t immediately answered.

Angola, Africa’s largest oil producer after Nigeria, pumped 1.8 million barrels a day in April and Sonangol targets 2 million barrels a day by 2017.

Total is the largest oil producer in the country. Block 17, where it has 40 percent, pumped 468,000 barrels a day in March, Finance Ministry data show. A floating production, storage and offloading vessel for Total’s Clov field in the block is due to be assembled from the end of the year, allowing the 160,000-barrel-a-day project to start in 2014, company documents show.

Total also has a 27 percent share of the Lianzi project, in an area between Angola and the Republic of Congo, which will be developed with a link to the Benguela-Belize-Lobito-Tomboco platform in Block 14, the Paris-based company said. It expects production to start in 2015.

Total operates exploration blocks 33, 17-06, 25 and 40, and has a stake in 39. The company and its partners plan to start an Angolan liquefied natural gas plant, in which Total has a 14 percent interest, next month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Colin McClelland in Johannesburg at cmcclelland1@bloomberg.net; Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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