Carlyle-Backed Neptune Said to Bid for Engie’s Exploration Arm

  • Neptune Oil & Gas submits initial offer, may seek partner
  • Engie is selling exploration assets from Europe to Africa

Neptune Oil & Gas Ltd., the energy acquisition firm set up last year by Carlyle Group LP and CVC Capital Partners, is in talks to buy French utility Engie SA’s oil and gas business, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investment vehicle, led by former Centrica Plc Chief Executive Officer Sam Laidlaw, has made an initial offer for the Engie assets that span the U.K., Norway, Algeria, Egypt, Germany and Asia, the people said. Neptune may bring in a partner to bid for assets outside of the U.K.’s North Sea, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

No final decisions have been made, and Neptune isn’t close to an agreement, the people said. A representative for Neptune didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Engie declined to comment.

Engie is working with financial advisers to sell its exploration business globally as the French utility pushes ahead with a plan to reduce its exposure to oil and gas prices, people familiar with the plan said in July. The assets could fetch about $4 billion, the people said at the time. 

The French utility announced in February it planned to sell as much as 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) in assets by 2018 and that it would review its exploration and production units. Sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp. is reviewing options for its 30 percent holding in that business, people familiar with the matter said last month. CIC is unlikely to sell its stake, which it bought for 2.3 billion euros in 2011, and is leaning toward increasing it, the people said at the time.

Neptune is planning $5 billion of investments, taking advantage of a wave of asset sales by industry giants in the wake of slumping crude prices, the company said when it was formed. Laidlaw said in an interview last year that Neptune is looking to acquire a “significant portfolio” in one or two deals, though the company planned to wait for valuations to “reflect the new reality of the oil price.”

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