INVESTORS have wiped around £75 million off the market valuation of North Sea heavyweight Premier Oil amid reports the company is planning to tap shareholders to help fund a bumper acquisition in the area, which it downplayed.

Reports at the weekend said Premier was considering completing a rights issue or a placing to support a deal to buy a North Sea portfolio off Chevron for around $1.5 billion (£1.2bn).

Chevron put its Central North Sea assets up for sale in July as the firm looked to increase investment in shale production in areas such as Texas.

The disposal is likely to continue the shake up in the North Sea. Some majors are reducing their exposure to the area in order to focus spending on basins in which they see better prospects.

Premier has increased investment in the North Sea following the crude price plunge after deciding it created opportunities to buy assets at attractive prices.

The company said yesterday: “Premier will continue to look at opportunities to acquire UK North Sea assets in line with the Group’s stated strategy.”

It added: “No firm decision has been taken to bid for all or any of the assets currently being marketed by Chevron and how, in the event that the Group were to be successful, the acquisition of such assets would be financed.”

The company is thought to be facing competition for the Chevron portfolio.

Private equity-backed North Sea independent Chrysaor and Israel’s Delek are said to be in the running with Ineos, the chemical giant run by Jim Ratcliffe.

Ineos is reported to be in exclusive talks to buy the North Sea assets of another US giant ConocoPhillips, with a £2bn plus deal though to be a possibility.

With shares in Premier closing down 12 per cent, 9.2p at 70.25p, it appeared some investors thought a fund-raising by the firm may be in prospect. The fall left the firm with a stock market capitalisation of £575m.

Premier has around $2.3bn net debt following an expansion programme which has involved hefty investment in the North Sea.

The company announced last week that it had achieved record production last year, helped by starting production from the giant Catcher field east of Aberdeen late in 2017.

Premier developed the 100m barrel Catcher with Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy. Oil prices plunged after the firms approved plans for the development in 2014. However, they were able to develop the field for around £500m less than expected following the resulting drop in the cost of services.

London-based Premier bought a North Sea portfolio from Germany’s E.ON for $120m in 2016

It has been pleased with the performance of the fields concerned. The company recently agreed plans to develop the Tolmount gas find on the acreage.

Chrysaor transformed itself into one of the biggest players in the North Sea by acquiring a big portfolio from Royal Dutch Shell in 2017 for up to $3.8bn. The assets accounted for around half of Shell’s UK North Sea production.

Delek acquired North Sea-focused Ithaca Energy in 2017 in a £1bn deal. Ineos has bought a range of North Sea assets in recent years.

In October Chevron sold its interest in the giant Rosebank find West of Shetland to Norway’s Equinor for an undisclosed sum. The US firm has a stake in the giant Clair field West of Shetland.The CNS portfolio put up for sale by Chevron includes stakes in the Alba, and Elgin/Franklin fields

In July BP agreed to acquire an additional 16.5 per cent holding in Clair from ConocoPhillips, in exchange for interests in Alaska.