Eni announced on Wednesday that it was “within weeks” of sealing a multi-billion-dollar deal to sell a stake in its Mozambique operations, with ExxonMobil favorite to buy the asset, Financial Times reported.

The Italian energy group has been seeking a partner to help bring Mozambique’s vast offshore gas resources on global markets and ExxonMobil is seen as the most likely candidate because it also has exploration licenses in the south-east African country. Eni’s Chief Executive, stated that the long-awaited transaction was “very close” but declined to comment on the identity of the buyer, according to Club of Mozambique.

Mr Descalzi’s statement came as Eni reported its first quarterly profit for 18 months, aided by higher oil prices.