NORTH Sea oil entrepreneur Andrew Austin is returning to the fray four months after the £250 million sale of a firm he founded to hunt for bargains in the area.

Mr Austin cemented his standing as one of the most successful players in the North Sea with the sale of Rockrose Energy to Viaro Energy in July.

The deal valued Mr Austin’s stake in Rockrose at around £70m, giving him plenty of firepower to make further investments in the sector.

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He has founded a new business to focus on opportunities amid the energy transition. The plunge in commodity prices triggered by the coronavirus crisis is causing upheaval in the North Sea, in which firms are facing huge challenges.

However, the resulting downturn could create opportunities in the North Sea for investors that can afford to take a long view. With lots of assets up for sale bargain hunters are scouring the area.

Mr Austin has aleady shown he can make money in the North Sea amid difficult conditions.

The former investment banker founded Rockrose in 2015 as the industry grappled with the fallout from the slump in oil prices that started in 2014. Rockrose used acquisitions to help it become a significant player in the North Sea in the space of a few years.

The new business led by Mr Austin, Kistos, expects to create value for its investors through the acquisition and management of companies or businesses in the energy sector.

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A spokesperson confirmed potential targets would include North Sea oil and gas assets.

“The Directors believe that the UK’s energy transition agenda will create opportunities arising from the Government and all our objective of meeting net zero by 2050,” said Mr Austin, who has won backing from senior industry figures and City investors for his latest plans.

Directors of Kistos include Alan Booth, who founded the Encore Oil business that was acquired by Premier Oil for £221 million in 2011.

Mr Booth is a director of Storrega Geotechnologies, which is working on the Acorn carbon, capture and storage project. This will help assess the potential to use depleted North Sea reservoirs to store carbon dioxide, potentially to support the production of hydrogen fuel from natural gas.

Mr Austin is chairman of Kistos, which has secured around £32 million funding from investors ahead of an expected flotation on the Aim market. Trading in its shares is set to start on Wednesday.

Kistos is raising £31.75m in a placing through the issue of shares at 100p each. Mr Austin is investing £10.5m in the firm, through his participation in the placing and an earlier fundraising that was completed by Kistos.