Abu Dhabi in bid for Statoil pipeline stake
Abu Dhabi, May 9, 2011
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and German insurer Allianz are in talks to buy a stake in a Norwegian gas pipeline from Statoil, sources said.
The three financial investors have teamed up and are discussing the acquisition of at least a 20 percent stake in Gassled, a Norwegian gas pipeline network, three people familiar with the matter said.
Statoil has said it was exploring reducing its 28.5 percent stake in Gassled, valued by industry sources at more than $3 billion. A spokesman said the company would not comment on details of that process.
"Gassled is a good and stable business. But if we were to reduce our ownership, it is because we would find alternative investments that are more attractive, to secure the best possible shareholder value creation," he said.
ADIA, CPPIB and Allianz declined to comment.
Gassled transports natural gas from the Norwegian Continental Shelf to Europe, providing about 20 per cent of the European Union's (EU) natural gas consumption. Norway is the second largest supplier of gas to the EU behind Russia.
This key strategic position of the pipeline, combined with its stable, long-term cash flows, appeals to investors who turn to infrastructure to diversify their portfolio with assets that can prove resilient in the face of economic volatility.
Statoil is not the first oil major that has sought to capitalise on Gassled's appeal to infrastructure investors by looking to sell a stake.
In April 2010, Njord Gas Infrastructure, a joint venture between a UBS infrastructure fund and France's CDC Infrastructure said they had agreed to buy a stake in the asset from ExxonMobil Corp.
Although the value of that deal was not disclosed, last month Standards & Poor's said Njord Gas Infrastructure would issue bonds totalling 4.06 billion Norwegian kroner to finance the acquisition of an 8 percent interest in Gassled.
Assuming debt accounted for about 80 percent of the deal, banking sources said they expected Statoil's 28.5 per cent stake to be worth at least $3 billion.
Statoil is the second largest shareholder in Gassled after Norwegian state-owned petroleum company Petoro, which according to Gassled's website has a 45.8 per cent stake.
Statoil has been increasingly focusing its operations on upstream production of oil and gas. It has also been seeking to grow its operations abroad as output from its core North Sea oilfields declines. - Reuters