By Scott Wright

CAIRN Energy boss Simon Thomson has highlighted an “important first step” in growing and diversifying the oil and gas company’s asset base as it completed the purchase of a portfolio of interests in Egypt.

Edinburgh-based Cairn told the City yesterday that it has concluded a $323 million (£236m) deal to acquire a basket of upstream oil and gas production, development and exploration interests from Shell Egypt NV and Shell Austria GmbH in the Western Desert.

It first revealed the move in March, when the company simultaneously announced a deal to sell its stakes in the giant Catcher and Kraken fields in the North Sea for $460m.

The Egypt deal sees Capricorn Egypt, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cairn, acquire 50 per cent of the assets. The remaining 50% have been acquired by Cheiron subsidiaries.

In a statement, Cairn said the acquisition value, subject to completion adjustments, is $323m net to the company. There will be an additional contingent consideration of up to a maximum of $140m over four years net to Cairn if certain requirements are met.

Mr Thomson said: “The addition of the Western Desert assets to our portfolio is an important first step in expanding and diversifying our producing asset base, alongside offering significant exploration potential. We look forward to working alongside our partners to deliver the attractive growth opportunities the assets provide.

“I would like to thank the Government of Egypt and the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources for their approval of the transaction.”

Cairn said the gas-weighted portfolio, in a region with strong demand growth, offers low-cost production, near-term development, owned infrastructure and significant exploration potential.

The acquisition was signed off shortly after Cairn saw its long-running tax dispute in India come to an end.

Shares in Cairn closed up 2.4p at 181.2p.