Marathon Oil to sell Norway business for $2.1B

HOUSTON – Marathon Oil Corp. struck a deal Monday to sell its Norwegian offshore oil-production business for $2.1 billion, its latest move to lighten its portfolio and concentrate on U.S. shale basins.

Its Norway business includes a floating production vessel, licenses to drill in some parts of the North Sea and a daily output of about 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent.

The buyer, Norwegian offshore producer Det Norske Oljeselskap ASA, has agreed to absorb debt and other liabilities, bringing the total deal value to $2.7 billion for Marathon.

Separately, Marathon took its U.K. North Sea business off the sales block after it failed to garner a bid worthy of its assets there, the company said Monday.

The Norwegian sale, expected to close in the fourth quarter, follows $6.2 billion in divestitures the Houston oil producer has made since 2011 to prune its portfolio “for future growth and profitability,” Marathon Oil Chief Executive Lee Tillman said in a written statement.

“The disciplined allocation of capital to opportunities that can deliver long-term growth at higher returns and improved margins is a strategic imperative,” Tillman said.

Marathon’s liquids-rich inventory in the Eagle Ford Shale, Bakken Shale and Oklahoma basins has “expanding opportunities to further accelerate activity,” the company’s first priority in allocating more investment capital, Tillman said.

Marathon became the second-largest U.S. independent oil producer behind ConocoPhillips in 2011 when it spun off its refining assets into a separate public company. Since then, it has steered much of its capital toward its U.S. drilling operations in South Texas, North Dakota and elsewhere.

Marathon shares were down 11 cents at 36.58 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.