US oil major ExxonMobil is selling a bumper North Sea portfolio in a deal worth up to around $1.3billion (£0.9bn) deal as the shake- up in the area continues.

The company has agreed to sell interests in 14 fields off Scotland to NEO Energy, which is backed by a Norwegian investment firm.

The deal covers the bulk of the portfolio amassed in the North Sea by ExxonMobil, which has been active in the area since 1964.

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It comes as the industry grapples with the fallout from the coronavirus, which has triggered a sharp fall in oil prices. The resulting downturn has given fresh impetus to a process which has seen majors reduce their exposure to the North Sea, in order to focus investment on other areas.

US heavyweights have sold North sea portfolios in recent years while increasing investment in the shale fields of their home country.

ExxonMobil put its North Sea portfolio up for sale in 2019.

The company said yesterday it was focusing development spending on “advantaged” projects in areas such as the Permian basin in the US and offshore Guyana.

While the slump has affected the appetite for North Sea assets, some sector players believe it has created opportunities to buy good assets at attractive prices.

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NEO launched a big push for growth on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) with backing from the HitecVision private equity business. It acquired North Sea assets from Total last year

HitecVision said it would continue to fund NEO’s growth in the UK through more acquisitions.

NEO will pay ExxonMobil around $1bn initially with up to a further $0.3bn payable depending on future oil and gas prices.

ExxonMobil’s share of the production from the fields covered by the deal was around 38,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 2019.

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ExxonMobil will retain interests in some Southern North Sea fields, the Fife Ethylene Plant and associated infrastructure.