KNOC Aims to Sell Stake in Dana Petroleum

State-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) is considering upping the stake it is planning to sell in its British unit Dana Petroleum after failing to lure a buyer for the 30% previously on offer, banking and industry sources said.

KNOC had hired Canada's Scotia Bank to help with selling part of the oil and gas producer, but the minority stake was not seen as attractive for energy companies already operating in the region, which are mostly backed by U.S. and European private equity funds, the sources said.

These investors have proved unwilling to take on a minority shareholding in a firm that is majority state-owned.

This has forced KNOC, which is saddled with around 17 trillion won ($14.4 billion) of debt at a debt-to-equity ratio of 2,287%, into an attempt to sell a higher stake, of up to 49%, in Dana to other Korean companies, one of the sources said.

In March, the state-run company said it was targeting a reduction in its debt-to-equity ratio to 1,200% in 2019 and 500% in 2020.

It is now looking to approach shipbuilding groups including Samsung Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries, the same source said.

These may be interested in providing floating vessels to the offshore oil and gas company.

A 49% stake in Dana Petroleum could be valued at up to $800 million, another source said.

KNOC bought Aberdeen-based Dana, an exploration and production company with operations across the North Sea, the Netherlands and Egypt, in 2010 for $2.9 billion, including debt.

Falling oil prices - down 15% from mid 2010 levels and around 50% from mid 2011 - have put crude producers' profitability under pressure since that deal was struck.

Dana Petroleum is also looking at selling a partial stake in single projects, two other banking and industry sources said, with one listing the Tolmount gas development, which it jointly owns with operator Premier Oil, as a potential candidate.

KNOC, Dana Petroleum and Premier declined to comment.

Dana has also been asking banks in London for financing on an early-stage exploration project in the North Sea, the first source said, with indicative proposals expected in coming weeks.

With average production of 65,000 barrels of oil and gas per day, Dana Petroleum holds 70% of its operations in the North Sea. Earlier this year it was fined for releasing over 80 tonnes of chemicals onto the seabed during a drilling operation in 2016.

($1 = 1,183.6300 won)

(Additional reporting by Jane Chung in Seoul; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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