Private equity vehicle to focus on energy assets

Ex-Centrica chief returns to corporate stage seeking deals in North Sea, Africa and Asia.

Neptune’s private equity backers are banking on the venture achieving a scale large enough to operate a diversified portfolio of assets. CVC will contribute capital from a $10.9bn buyout fund, which closed in 2013. Carlyle, for its part, raised a $2.5bn international energy fund in March, bringing the amount of money it has to invest in the sector overall to over $10bn.

Other private equity firms have raced to raise money to snap up assets cheaply since the oil price slump began. But few deals have been struck yet.

Several groups operating in the North Sea have been sounding out potential buyers for fields. Among those known to be available are German utility Eon’s North Sea assets, a 20 per cent stake in Total’s Laggan Tormore project and a dozen gas fields that L1 Energy acquired from RWE but has now been ordered by the UK government to sell.

Laidlaw returns to corporate stage

Re-emergence of Sam Laidlawto the UK corporate stage to run an oil and gas venture comes six months after his tenure as CEO of Centrica came to an end.

Mr. Laidlaw declined to be drawn on whether Neptune would bid for these assets, but said: “As a general rule we’d certainly like to have a position of influence… we would actually like to operate” the fields rather than buying minority stakes.

He added that the company would not “restrict ourselves” to the North Sea but was hopeful that the UK government’s announced reduction to the supplementary rate of tax on profits would make the region “a more benign environment in which to invest”.

According to Wood Mackenzie, the energy consultancy, private equity stands out as one of the possible big spenders in the sector in the coming year. More than $40bn of private equity funds are earmarked for exploration and production deals, it said.

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