North Sea oil firm Ithaca Energy said yesterday it was still in discussions with parties interested in acquiring it.
The Aberdeen-based company said earlier this month it had received unsolicited interest in the business from a number of suitors.
There has been speculation that potential buyers could include EnQuest, Taqa and Dana Petroleum.
Ithaca has also reportedly been in discussions with Kuwait’s national oil company, Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration, for several months.
Analysts have estimated any deal for Ithaca could be worth up to nearly £550million.
In a statement yesterday, Ithaca said: “Ithaca has advised that it believed that it is in the shareholders’ best interests that the company entered into discussions with all bona fide interested parties with a view to maximising shareholder value.
“The process is still ongoing.”
The brief update came as Ithaca reported a fall in profits in 2011.
Operating profits were £16.6million, down from £42.6million the year before, while pre-tax profits fell to £23.3million from £36.5million. The company turned over £81.1million last year, down from £84.9million in 2010.
Ithaca also increased its net proved and probable reserves estimates by 9% to 50.25million barrels of oil equivalent (boe).
It said it expected net export production in the first quarter to be around 4,200boe per day but predicted this would more than double in the second quarter with first oil at its Athena development.
The firm’s shares closed down 1.5p at 190.5p yesterday, valuing the business at about £500million.
Ithaca has assets in the inner and outer Moray Firth plus central and southern North Sea.
Meanwhile, Talisman is to restart operations on its Tartan platform in the North Sea this weekend after an extended shutdown for safety upgrades.
Tartan was shut down throughout the fourth quarter of 2011 for the work and had been due back on stream in the first quarter of this year.
Bridge Energy, which holds a 50% interest in Talisman’s Duart field, which ties into the platform, said that Talisman was working to restart operations on Tartan and had rescheduled the start of production to the weekend.