TRANSOCEAN, the oil and gas drilling giant, has said it plans to spin off a business focused on the UK North Sea but remains committed to the area.

Switzerland-based Transocean said it plans to transfer eight of its UK North Sea drilling rigs to a new entity, Caledonia Offshore Drilling Company.

Transocean said the new company will be established in the second half of 2014. It will separate Caledonia from Transocean "at an appropriate stage".

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The company said the creation of Caledonia reflects its strategy of divesting non-core assets.

However, it added: "The UK North Sea remains an important market for Transocean and the company is committed to maintaining its presence in the region. As such, various options for the separation of Caledonia are under consideration."

The rigs it will transfer are reported to lease for around $400,000 a day. They are the Sedco 704, Sedco 711, Sedco 712, Sedco 714, Transocean John Shaw, Transocean Prospect, GSF Arctic III and J.W. McLean rigs.

Transocean has interests in around 90 rigs and drillships.

Transocean operated the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded on a BP licence in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 triggering a disastrous spill.

In January 2013 the company said a subsidiary had agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanour violation of the US Clean Water Act for negligent discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and pay $1.4 billion in fines, recoveries and penalties, excluding interest.