By Matthew Monks, Dinesh Nair, Ed Hammond and Mikael Holter
(Bloomberg) — Aker ASA, the investment company controlled by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke, is considering a sale of offshore-engineering business Aker Solutions ASA, according to people familiar with the matter.
Aker ASA, which owns more than a third of Aker Solutions via a holding company with the Norwegian government and a direct stake, is discussing options with potential adviser Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. Aker Solutions, which is based in Fornebu near Oslo, has been informally shopped to potential buyers, the people said. No final decisions have been made.
Aker Solutions rose as much as 5.3 percent in Oslo trading to 44.18 kroner a share, the highest level in more than 18 months. The stock traded 5.2 percent higher as of 9:49 a.m., while Aker rose 2.1 percent.
Shares of Aker Solutions have gained more than 80 percent in the past 12 months, helped by a relative recovery in oil prices, giving it a market value of 12 billion Norwegian kroner ($1.42 billion). Aker ASA and the Norwegian government have committed to maintaining their joint ownership of Aker Solutions through mid-2017, meaning any acquirer would need to get the approval of both for any sale.
The slide in oil prices that started in 2014 has put immense financial pressure on companies such as Aker Solutions that provide services and equipment to explorers, spurring takeover activity in the sector. General Electric Co. agreed in October to merge its oilfield services arm with Baker Hughes Inc., months after Baker’s sale to rival Halliburton Co. unraveled.
Aker won’t comment on “rumors or speculation,” spokesman Atle Kigen said. “Aker has said several times that it’s open for alliances or transactions if they’re in the best interest of the companies and the shareholders,” he said. A representative for Aker Solutions declined to comment.
“It’s the board and management of Aker Solutions which have the responsibility for business decisions,” Christine Spersrud Haug, a spokeswoman for the Trade and Industry Ministry, said in an e-mailed statement, adding that the government in general will assess any transactions related to its holdings.
The macro environment remains tough for European oil services stocks and a period of significantly lower profitability amid job cuts and asset rationalization lies ahead, Barclays Plc said in an analyst note this week.
Aker Solutions designs a number of products for exploring offshore, including floating drilling platforms, tools for lowering equipment down to the seabed, and various pumps and compression systems for underwater wells, according to its website. In 2014, Aker Solutions split into two companies, creating the drilling and oilfield services business known as Akastor ASA.
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