Norway’s Aker group appears set to re-enter the rig-owning business as it closes in on a deal to acquire a newbuild harsh-environment unit from Samsung Heavy Industries that was recently cancelled by Stena Drilling, according to sources.
The South Korean yard has been engaged in talks with Kristian Rokke, son of Aker’s dominant owner Kjell Inge Rokke and chief executive of oil services investment unit Akastor, about a possible deal for the Moss CS60-design Stena MidMax semi-submersible unit, one industry source claimed.
He indicated the newbuild, originally ordered by Stena for about $800 million in 2013, could be sold for around $450 million, though additional costs would be incurred to complete the rig over the next six to 12 months.
It is understood that a purpose-built company would be set up to own the rig.
“The parties are close to finalising the transaction. It is right around the corner,” the source stated.
He added a subsequent tender would be launched for an operating contract for the rig, with Oslo-listed Odfjell Drilling seen as a potential candidate to take the deal.
Another source said there were rumours in the market of Aker negotiating with Samsung for the newbuild, which was terminated by Stena earlier this summer ostensibly due to delays in completing it, with the UK-based contractor now pursuing a legal claim for compensation against the yard.
Samsung may therefore be keen to sell the rig to generate cash to meet the costs of any claim from Stena, which is seeking a refund of $215.4 million in pre-delivery installments plus interest.
If confirmed, it would mark a comeback for Aker in the rig ownership business after selling its former unit Aker Drilling for $2.23 billion to Transocean in 2011.
Aker could therefore be looking to capitalise on cheap prices for rigs due to a drilling market slump triggered by low oil prices and fuelled by an oversupply of units, mimicking other players such as newcomer Borr Drilling to jump on the asset-buying bandwagon.
A spokesman for holding company Aker ASA said: “Aker looks at opportunities but cannot comment on who we are talking to or the nature of those discussions.”
Although the rig was said by a source to be lined up for oil company AkerBP’s upcoming exploration campaign next year in the Barents Sea off Norway, the company has recently lined up Odfjell Drilling’s semi-submersible Deepsea Stavanger for this work.
However, AkerBP’s chief executive Karl Johnny Hersvik admitted on the sidelines of Pareto Securities’ Oil & Offshore conference in Oslo on Wednesday he was aware there was interest from Aker in getting back into the rig business but was “not sure what stage the negotiations have reached”.