Marathon Oil ends talks to sell Canadian oil sands stake

Marathon Oil Corp. is maintaining its goal of shedding up to $3 billion in assets by the end of this year even though it is taking the potential sale of some of its stake in a Canadian oil sands project off the table for now.

The Houston-based exploration and production firm said Thursday that discussions it had regarding the potential sale  of a portion of its 20 percent interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project in Alberta did not result in a deal, and talks with the unnamed suitor have been called off.

Marathon said no other talks regarding the potential sale of that asset is currently planned.  However, the company said it is holding to its previously stated goal of divesting $1.5 billion to $3 billion in assets from 2011 through 2013.

Sell off: Marathon Oil Corp. may part with more assets

As of Wednesday, the company had agreed to or closed on roughly $1.3 billion in divestitures.

“The company will continue to evaluate ways to optimize its portfolio for profitable growth and to deliver value to shareholders,” Marathon said in a statement.

The Athabasca oil sands, in northeastern Alberta, contain large deposits of heavy crude oil. It is regarded as the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world.

In 2011, following the spinoff of its refining arm, Marathon Oil said the company might consider divesting additional assets. It didn’t specify assets at the time, but analysts speculated that the company could part with some holdings in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico.

South Texas: Houston-based Marathon seeks buyer for Eagle Ford assets

In 2012, the company sought to sell some of its assets in the Eagle Ford formation in south Texas. The Eagle Ford still remains a key play for the company.

For the three months ended March 31, Marathon Oil reported a $383 million profit, an 8 percent drop from a year earlier. Revenue in the quarter edged up 1.6 percent to $4.11 billion.