(Bloomberg) -- Equinor ASA has chosen a little-known company as the preferred buyer of its stake in one of Nigeria’s largest deep-water oil fields, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Norwegian energy giant is trying to sell its 20.2% interest in the Agbami field – joining other international producers such as Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Eni SpA in looking to offload assets in Africa’s biggest crude producer.

Chappal Energies Mauritius Ltd. has emerged as the favored buyer of Equinor’s interest in the asset, which is operated by Chevron Corp. and produces about 100,000 barrels of oil a day, the people said. Five companies including Prime Oil & Gas Cooperatief UA, which already has a 12.5% share in the Agbami field, submitted binding bids, according to the people. Prime O&G is a joint venture between Vancouver-registered Africa Oil Corp. and Brazil’s Grupo BTG Pactual.

Agbami has accounted for about 7% of Nigeria’s oil output this year and only the Shell-operated Bonga field currently produces more oil in the country.

A sales agreement hasn’t yet been signed and Chappal Energies still needs to raise the funds to finance the deal, according to the people, who didn’t say what purchase price has been negotiated. 

Spokespeople for Equinor, Chappal Energies and Prime O&G declined to comment. 

Chappal Energies was founded in May 2022, according to Mauritian corporate records. Bill Higgs, the British former chief executive of Kurdistan-focused Genel Energy Plc, and Hezekiah Oyinlola, a Nigerian who spent three decades working for the world’s biggest oil services provider, SLB, joined the company’s board in February. Oyinlola is also chairman of Lagos-based bank Guaranty Trust Holding Co.  

Chappal Energies’ managing director, Ufoma Immanuel, previously held the same position at a Lagos-based company named Chappal Petroleum Development Ltd., which was created in 2020 and chaired by the founding chief executive officer of Seplat Energy Plc, Austin Avuru. Chappal Petroleum unsuccessfully bid for Nigerian shallow-water oil blocks that Exxon agreed to sell to Seplat in February 2022. 

Avuru, who is not on the board of Chappal Energies, and Immanuel didn’t respond to questions about the relationship between the two firms.   

While Equinor is seeking to exit its sole Nigerian asset after more than three decades in the country, the other oil majors are limiting their divestments to onshore and shallow water assets in order to concentrate on deep-water projects.

Equinor is also exploring the sale of its operations in Azerbaijan, including a stake in the country’s largest oil project, according to people with knowledge of the matter. 


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