NORTH Sea-focused Ithaca Energy has said it plans to pay multi-million dividends to its Israeli parent company in spite of the challenges posed by the plunge in commodity prices triggered by the coronavirus.

Aberdeen-based Ithaca said it planned to pay a $20 million (£16m) dividend to Delek this month after securing $1.1 billion bank facilities.

The move comes as many firms in the North Sea are braced for what may be a long downturn.

Brent crude sold for around $35/bbl yesterday afternoon compared with about $70/bbl in January.

Ithaca said last month it could make $450 million cash profit this year even if Brent crude sells for $1 per barrel.

The company is benefitting from hedging deals under which it will be able to sell more than 20 million barrels of oil in coming months at an average price of at least $62/bbl.Its production costs averaged

$17/bbl last year.

The company increased its presence in the North Sea through the acquisition of a big portfolio from America’s Chevron for $2bn.

Delek bought Ithaca in a £1bn deal in 2017, under a plan to become a significant international player.

Separately, Jersey Oil & Gas underlined its confidence in a potential North Sea field development that a giant lost interest in.

Shares in Jersey rose 30 per cent yesterday after the company said it had completed the acquisition of a stake in acreage containing potentially significant resources from Equinor in a low-cost deal.

The acreage contains the Verbier find, which Jersey made with Equinor in 2017.

The discovery stoked excitement in the industry but that cooled after the results of appraisal drilling suggested the Verbier field was smaller than hoped.

Jersey hopes to develop Verbier as part of a plan to complete the planned Great Buchan Area development. This will include restarting production from the Buchan field.

Chief executive Andrew Benitz said the company was making progress on planning for the development and working closely with stakeholders and the regulator on the project.

Private equity firm HiTec Vision said yesterday it had renegotiated the terms of a deal to buy a big North Sea portfolio from Total with NEO Energy.

HiTec Vision said: “Reflecting recent significant market volatility, NEO, HitecVision and Total have renegotiated the financial terms of the deal to respond to the current environment. Previous deal partner Petrogas is no longer part of the transaction.” It did not provide financial details.

When the original deal was announced in July, with a $635m price tag, Petrogas described the North Sea as a heartland. It is owned by Oman-based MB Holding.

Jersey Oil & Gas shares closed up 20.5p, at 87p.

Ithaca secured an extension of a Reserves Based Lending (RBL) facility it negotiated at the time of the Chevron deal.

A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘We are pleased to have concluded the RBL redetermination and retained significant liquidity headroom in the business. This is testament to the quality of the assets in our portfolio and the protection provided by our significant commodity hedging position.”