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Shell Puts North Sea Rigs On The Block

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A - Get Report) is preparing the sale of stakes in three North Sea oil rigs, signaling a retreat from more mature assets in the region as part of a $15 billion disposal program announced at the end of January.

Hague, Netherlands-based Shell told staff working on its Anasuria, Nelson and Sean platforms of its plans earlier this week. The sale process is yet to commence, a Shell spokeswoman said.

Shell wants to sell assets to bring down capital spending. That ballooned to a record $46 billion last year, prompting the company in December to issue its first profit warning in a decade.

The planned sales "are very much in line with out strategy and will allow us to focus on where we can add value to ensure a long term future for shell in the [North Sea] basin," Shell vice president Glen Cayley said in a statement. "We are talking to staff about the proposal to sell the assets in order to be as open as possible."

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Shell owns a 50% stake in the Anasuria rig, which it owns alongside Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Esso and which services four subseafields, including the Cook field, in which Shell's 25.77% stake could also go on the block. Other owners of the Cook field are Ithaca Energy Inc., which has a 41.35% stake, Summit Petroleum Ltd., with 20% and Esso, with 12.89%.

The Nelson platform is 58.1% owned by Shell, 21.23% by Esso, 11.52% by Apache Corp.'s Apache North Sea Ltd., 7.48% by Idemitsu Petroleum UK Ltd. and 1.66% by Premier Oil ONS Ltd.

Shell owns a 25% stake in the Sean platform, making it a junior partner to Scottish & Southern Energy plc, which has 50%, while Esso owns 25%.

Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden, who took over in January, has already sold $2.14 billion of assets. He has promised more detail on the assets that he wants to sell at a strategy presentation on March 13.

Shell declined to say if it had appointed advisers to sell the North Sea assets.

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