OIL giant ExxonMobil looks set to sell the bulk of its North Sea assets to Norwegian financiers.

The company confirmed it is in exclusive talks to sell its assets in the central and Northern North Sea off Scotland to the HitecVision private equity business. HitecVision said a deal could be signed in the current quarter.

The proposed sale comes amid a shake-up in the North Sea that has been given fresh impetus by the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

READ MORE: Scottish energy giant exits North Sea with sale of gas production business

A range of US majors have offloaded North Sea portfolios in recent years after deciding they could generate better returns on investment in areas such as the shale fields of their home country.

ExxonMobil put its UK North Sea portfolio up for sale in 2019 in a landmark move. It has been active in the area since 1964 and has stakes in around 40 fields.

It is thought the deal under discussion would not cover ExxonMobil’s assets in the Southern North Sea, off England; the ethylene plant it operates in Fife or the giant Fawley refinery near Southampton.

HitecVision bought ExxonMobil’s Norwegian upstream assets with Italy’s Eni in 2019 ,for $4.5 billion.

READ MORE: Hundreds of jobs to go in Aberdeen as Shell retrenches

In October ExxonMobil announced plans to shed around 400 jobs in the UK.

Private equity-backed firms bought big UK North Sea portfolios during the last downturn.

In May last year HiTec Vision announced it had renegotiated the terms of a bumper deal to buy a package of North Sea assets from Total.

READ MORE: UK North Sea offer world's best conditions for oil and gas firms say experts 

ExxonMobil said there was a possibility that negotiations with HitecVision may not conclude with an agreement.”

The group employs around 220 people in Scotland