Oil and gas bosses and private-equity funds are thought to be planning a £6billion-plus raid on North Sea energy assets.
Investors including Riverstone Energy, Carlyle Group and Blackstone are believed to be in talks to buy producing assets or struggling exploration and production companies.
The firms declined to comment but a report said yesterday they were hiring “high-profile” industry executives who can use their experience to drive costs lower by introducing efficiencies.
Fresh investment in the North Sea has been hampered in recent years by rising costs, taxation concerns and – more lately – lower oil prices.
Meanwhile, output from some key fields has been declining since their peak in the 1990s.
But some assets remain highly attractive – such as Total’s Laggan-Tormore development, which banking sources have said is up for sale, and gas fields being put on the block by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s LetterOne fund.
Private-equity and other funds are taking “concrete steps” towards completing investments in the North Sea, yesterday’s report said.
In some cases, funds and industry executives are choosing to set up new vehicles to manage offshore fields, it added.
One example of this is Siccar Point, created late last year and headed up by former Centrica Energy Upstream boss Jonathan Roger. It is backed by Blackstone and BlueWaterEnergy.
Another example is Aberdeen-based Verus Petroleum, backed by Norwegian private equity fund Hitech Vision and headed up by North Sea veteran Alan Curran.
Some funds are pursuing a more traditional path by investing in struggling producing firms and changing the leadership to increase profits, the report said.
Emma Wild, UK head of upstream Advisory at professional services firm KPMG, said marrying private-equity capital to management with a strong track record gave investors a chance to take advantage of “what some are calling the bottom of the cycle”.