Hungary's MOL buys Chevron stake in Azeri oilfield for $1.57 billion

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian energy firm MOL is buying Chevron’s stake in a giant oilfield in Azerbaijan for $1.57 billion, as U.S. majors retreat from the central Asian state after 25 years to refocus on production at home.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Hungarian oil and gas group MOL at the company's refinery in Szazhalombatta ,Hungary March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh/File Photo

MOL said on Monday the deal agreed with Chevron includes a 9.57% stake in the BP-operated Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) field in the Caspian Sea and a 8.9% stake in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that transports the crude to the Mediterranean.

Reuters first reported on the talks between MOL and Chevron last month.

“What this deal gives us is longevity and stability,” MOL’s executive upstream vice president Berislav Gaso told Reuters by telephone after MOL announced the transaction in a filing.

He said MOL will keep looking for acquisitions, but is “not in a rush” and any further steps will not be as big, with the aim on maintaining the ability to generate cash.

“I like barrels but I love dollars even more than that.”

He said the Azeri purchase will add about 20,000 barrels per day to MOL’s production guidance, which will rise to 120,000-130,000 barrels per day.

MOL said in a presentation last month that it was seeking to add 350 million barrels of oil and gas reserves by 2023.

The company also said the largest potential for organic reserve replacement was in Norway, but opportunities other than organic growth would be required to achieve this.

MOL is focused on Croatia and Hungary, which account for 64% of its total upstream oil and gas production, while it also produces in the North Sea, Iraq and Russia.

Chevron’s larger U.S. rival Exxon Mobil is also seeking to sell its 6.8% stake in ACG, banking and industry sources have said.

Discovered in the early 1970s when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, ACG is the largest oilfield in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian basin.

In 2018, ACG’s total production for the full year was on average 584,000 barrels per day.

Investment bank Jefferies advised Chevron on the deal.

Reporting by Krisztina Than and Gergely Szakacs in Budapest; additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in London; Editing by Alexander Smith and Susan Fenton