Sam Laidlaw to lead private equity push into oil and gas

Sam Laidlaw, former chief executive of Centrica, is to lead a push by private equity into oil and gas, taking charge of a venture that will spend up to $5bn on fields in the North Sea, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Backed by Carlyle and CVC Capital Partners, the new London-based company, called Neptune, plans to use the collapse in oil prices to build a substantial portfolio of assets producing up to 100,000 barrels a day of oil and gas output.

“That’s the mandate to start with. If we make a success of that, it could over time go bigger,” Mr. Laidlaw, who is also putting some of his own money in the venture, told the Financial Times.

“This is not just a punt on the oil price. This is actually about trying to improve operating efficiency, add barrels, add reserves and find different operating models that drive value,” he said.

His return to a high-profile energy role, six months after he left the top job at Centrica, which owns British Gas, marks the latest move into the oil and gas industry. Some investors believe the sector is in for a transformative restructuring following the near-50 per cent plunge in crude prices.

Russian billionaire Mikhail Friedman this year hired Lord Browne, former chief executive of BP, to run L1 Energy, a $10bn energy investment vehicle.

Several private equity groups, including Carlyle, have signaled interest in investing in the North Sea. But the appointment of Mr. Laidlaw, who will have a remit to build a fully-fledged oil and gas operator rather than acquire only minority stakes in fields, shows more serious intent.

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