Germany’s Wintershall Holding GmbH has expressed an interest in buying stakes in Libyan oil-and-gas assets from Occidental Petroleum Corp., Libyan officials said, a rare move by a western company to increase its foothold in the war-torn country.

Houston-based Occidental has sought and obtained permission from Libya’s state-run National Oil Co. to allow Wintershall access to confidential data of fields it partly owns, Libyan officials said. “Occidental has been asking approval of NOC for disclosing information to Wintershall,” an official said.

Wintershall, the oil-and-gas unit of the world’s largest chemical company BASF SE, said, “We generally do not comment on market speculation or rumors.” Occidental declined to comment.

Occidental has been trying to sell up to a 40% stake in its Middle Eastern and North African interests since October 2013, as it tries to focus on its prolific North American assets. Its Libyan fields have been producing insignificant amounts, the company said in its 2014 report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as the country remains divided by a violent fight for power since the 2011 ouster and death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Until now, Occidental’s attempts to unload any of its Libyan interests have met with little success.

Libyan officials said terms of any deal being discussed for assets owned by a joint venture that includes Occidental, Austria’s OMV AG and Libya’s National Oil Co. haven’t been completed. Occidental’s Libyan oil-producing assets lie within this joint venture.

“It could be for a stake in the assets or just some of them,” a Libyan oil official said. But the official added that the National Oil Co. had a right of first refusal on the stakes.

Western companies are important to Libya’s oil industry, teaming up with the country’s state-run oil company to exploit Africa’s largest oil-and-gas reserves. But since last year, Libya’s oil industry has been crippled by strikes, the armed conflict between rival factions and terrorist attacks. Production has fallen to a third of its normal level, and the deteriorating security situation has forced most foreign companies to evacuate their expatriates.

Wintershall is among a small group of western companies that have been able to keep pumping sizable amounts of oil despite the chaos. The company said in September that its Libyan output had stabilized at 35,000 barrels a but declined to provide details on current production. So far, its assets have been largely spared from the conflict and have produced intermittently, unlike those of some other companies which have suffered prolonged shutdowns.

Its oil and gas fields are supplying Zueitina, a terminal partly owned by Occidental in eastern Libya. “Consolidating the assets would create synergies,” another Libyan official said.

The Mellitah Oil and Gas terminal on the outskirts of Zwara in western Libya pictured in January. Oil installations, such as Mellitah, in the strife-torn country are targets of terrorists and militants.

The Mellitah Oil and Gas terminal on the outskirts of Zwara in western Libya pictured in January. Oil installations, such as Mellitah, in the strife-torn country are targets of terrorists and militants.

Before falling precipitously in the past three years, Occidental’s Libyan production had averaged about 12,000 barrels a day in 2012.

Occidental has also been in talks to sell at least a fifth of its 24.5% stake in Middle Eastern company Dolphin Energy Ltd. to Abu Dhabi-owned Mubadala Development Co., people familiar with the matter said last year. But no sale has been concluded thus far.

Though Libya’s state oil industry has been able to operate independently from the two rival governments that respectively control the eastern and western parts of Libya, it has showed a reluctance in the past to let assets change hands. An attempt by Marathon Oil Corp. to exit the country two years ago failed when the government signaled it wanted pre-emptive rights to its assets, a move that reduced the value extractable from the divestment.

Source: Wall Street Journal