AN Austrian oil and gas giant has underlined its faith in the potential of the North Sea by acquiring more acreage west of Shetland for up to $85 million (£50m).

OMV has agreed to acquire four licences in the area from Hess of America, including the Cambo discovery and the Blackrock prospect. It has agreed to pay $50m with a further payment of up to $35, depending on future developments.

OMV said it would acquire 60 million barrels of recoverable oil equivalent through the deal, mainly in the field Cambo which is under appraisal.

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The acquisition reflects strong international interest in the area west of Shetland, where giants such as BP and Shell are investing heavily developing big fields like Clair Ridge.

Jaap Huijskes, OMV executive board member responsible for exploration and production at OMV, said: "This acquisition further consolidates OMV as a major player in West of Shetland and we look forward to working with partners and the UK authorities to unlock the substantial potential in the area."

The company has 22 West of Shetland licences.

In August, OMV increased its holdings in the Rosebank and Schiehallion fields off Shetland in a $2.65bn deal with Norway's Statoil.

Hess has been investing heavily in US shale assets. It has a stake in the giant Valhall field off Norway.