Eni could announce a deal as soon as this week for private equity-backed Neptune, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the discussions are private. Eni is poised to beat out suitors including TotalEnergies for the asset, the people said.
No final decision has been made and the timing of the deal could change, or talks could still fall through, the people added. Neptune is backed by Carlyle Group and CVC Capital Partners.
Shares in Eni were up 0.6% at 9:15 a.m. in Milan on Wednesday, valuing the company at €46 billion ($50 billion).
Representatives for Eni, Neptune, Carlyle and CVC declined to comment.
Eni has had Neptune on its radar since at least late last year as the company seeks to expand its natural gas business, Bloomberg News has reported. Reuters reported June 6 that Eni had entered exclusive talks.
Roughly three quarters of Neptune’s production comes from natural gas in the North Sea, North Africa and Asia — all regions where Eni operates.
Formed in 2015 by former Centrica Plc boss Sam Laidlaw, Neptune has several offshore oil and gas operations in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands, where it says it’s the largest gas producer in the Dutch sector of the North Sea, according to its website.
Energy transactions have proved relatively resilient this year, with deal values in the sector down 15% to $143 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show — a far less severe fall than the 43% drop off in broader dealmaking. Much of the activity has been focused on the shift to cleaner forms of energy.