Exxon to Sell USD 25 Billion of Assets to Focus on Mega-Projects

ExxonMobil is set to sell up to USD 25 billion of oil and gas fields in Europe, Asia and Africa. The move, Exxon’s biggest asset sales for decades, is aimed at collecting sufficient investment to focus entirely on a few mega-projects.

The sell-off would be a marked acceleration of the U.S. oil major’s previous divestment plans. It would represent an ambitious attempt by Chief Executive Darren Woods. Many of its competitors have already sold billions of dollars-worth of assets following the market crash back in 2014.

Exxon’s shares have underperformed its major rivals’ in recent years. The disposals would help the company increase spending on new developments and appease investors unhappy with weak cash generation and oil output, which flatlined under Woods’ predecessor Rex Tillerson.

According to the three banking sources with direct knowledge of the plans, Exxon effectively quit its upstream oil and gas business in Europe, Reuters reports. They would free up cash to invest in new developments in Guyana, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Brazil and the United States. An Exxon spokesman declined to comment on specific assets offered for sale but noted it has told Wall Street its asset sales could reach USD 25 billion through 2025.

In recent months, the Texas-based company has drawn up an extensive list of assets that it wants to divest, spanning at least 11 countries, the sources said.

The list, details of which have not been previously reported, would easily exceed its current divestment target which envisages it selling about USD 15 billion of assets by 2021.

Exxon has struck a number of deals in recent months including a USD 4.5 billion exit from Norway, and is also already offering assets in Australia, Nigeria, Malaysia.

The expanded plan will see Exxon also sell out of operations in the British North Sea, Germany and Romania, according to the sources. In Europe, that would leave it with production only in the Netherlands, where it holds a stake with Royal Dutch Shell in the giant Groningen gas field which the government plans to shut down in 2022.

The new plan would also see Exxon significantly pare back operations in Southeast Asia with the sale of its assets in Indonesia and Malaysia, the sources said.

In Africa, Exxon wants to sell its operations in Chad, Equatorial Guinea as well as parts of its Nigerian assets.

While Exxon is set to ramp up its spending sharply in the coming years to develop new oil and gas projects, most of its peers have more cautious spending plans due to an uncertain outlook for oil prices and growing pressure from investors to diversify away from fossil fuels toward renewables.

While Exxon intends to increase investments in new oil and gas projects, the competitors are wary of the uncertainty in oil prices in the time to come. Investors have also started to push corporations to focus more on renewables instead.

Note that EIB has recently reached a compromise to end the financing by the EU Bank of unabated fossil fuel projects, including gas, from the end of 2021.

“I am grateful for all those who have contributed to the largest ever public consultation on EIB lending in recent months and energy expert colleagues who have outlined how the EU bank can drive global efforts to decarbonise energy,” Andrew McDowell, EIB Vice-President in charge of energy said.

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