Greece’s biggest refiner Hellenic Petroleum has sold rights to drill for hydrocarbons in Egypt as it focuses on its core downstream activities to cope with recession at home.

Hellenic sold 70 percent of its exploration rights in Egypt’s West Obayed region to local operator Vegas Oil&Gas, it said in a statement. Hellenic will hold a 30 percent stake in a joint venture between the two companies.

“Hellenic Petroleum decided to sell part of its rights in the framework of its portfolio management to create value and spread its … risks,” the statement added.

Hellenic is trying to cut costs and focus on downstream operations to overcome recession in its home market Greece, where austerity measures have slashed motor fuel consumption.

The company, which has refineries, gas stations or exploration rights in 10 countries in the eastern Mediterranean, did not disclose the value of the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval.

Hellenic has so far conducted two test drills at West Obayed. The company said earlier this year it hit on “interesting hydrocarbon shows” but has since suspended the well, planning more tests.

Hellenic also owns 30 percent of exploration rights in another block in Egypt, called Mesaha, in a joint venture with oil explorer Melrose Resources and KEC.

Two years ago, Hellenic sold its 20 percent stake in six blocks in Libya to France’s GDF-Suez for 125 million euros.

Vegas Oil & Gas has concessions to seek hydrocarbons in three regions in Egypt in joint ventures with Shell, GDF-Suez and Circle Oil.

(Source: Reuters)