Exxon Considers Sale of Oil Assets in Equatorial Guinea

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Exxon Mobil Corp.

XOM -0.89%

is in talks to sell its oil assets in Equatorial Guinea, the country’s oil minister said, and might be replaced by a Russian company—among other options—as U.S. companies retreat to shale projects and Moscow strengthens its foothold in African resources.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an energy event,

Gabriel Obiang Lima

said he was in talks with Exxon about a sale of its assets in Equatorial Guinea, including its operating stake in the Zafiro field. At 90,000 barrels a day, the field makes up the bulk of Equatorial Guinea’s output.

A spokesman for Exxon said the U.S. oil company is “providing information to third parties that may have an interest in these assets, but no agreements have been reached and no buyer has been identified.”

The spokesman added that a potential transaction wouldn’t affect the company’s exploration activities in Equatorial Guinea.

Exxon is considering selling the stake as part of its plan to shed $25 billion of assets world-wide as it turns its focus to larger projects.

Many of these investments are in U.S. shale, which has led to an unprecedented production boom in the U.S. and a reduction in exposure in Africa and other riskier places. Exxon and

Chevron Corp.

are also selling stakes in fields in Nigeria, historically Africa’s biggest producer. In recent years,

Marathon Oil Corp.


Occidental Petroleum Corp.

have also sold their stakes in Libya.

African countries are often seen by U.S. energy companies as offering difficult investment conditions.

But in the case of Equatorial Guinea, “fiscal terms [are] not the issue,” Mr. Obiang Lima said. He said U.S. companies “just want quicker returns” in the Permian Basin, an area of Texas and New Mexico that accounts for 20% of U.S. crude-oil production and is a cradle of the shale boom.

As U.S. companies reduce their exposure in Africa, Moscow is increasingly stepping in to extract resources as part of a broader push for political and economic influence on the continent.

“We are talking to companies from Russia, the U.K. and Equatorial Guinea itself” to replace Exxon by June, Mr. Obiang Lima said.

In Libya, state-run Russian companies


Rosneft and


have been trying to expand their foothold.

Separately, Equatorial Guinea said it will add 20,000 barrels a day of oil production by October to its current output of 120,000 barrels a day. While the addition is small, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries—to which Equatorial Guinea belongs—has been trying to rein in production by its members.

Mr. Obiang Lima also said he favored an oil-price range of $60 to $70 a barrel, a view widely held among other producers. “At $70, it is creating a problem for consumers,” he said.

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