London — French oil major Total has overtaken rival Royal Dutch Shell to become the second-largest producer in the North Sea with its acquisition of Maersk’s Norwegian and UK producing assets. The $7.45bn deal by Total was welcomed by the market, with analysts saying it helped the French company re-balance its portfolio by adding assets in developed countries after going for projects in riskier places such as Iran and Russia. The deal boosts the share of eight global oil majors in the North Sea — Statoil, Total, Shell, Exxon Mobil, Conoco, ENI, BP and Chevron — to back above three quarters of total output. Several oil majors have been actively looking to divest fields in the North Sea — one of the most mature global oil provinces where future developments will be complicated by high decommissioning costs of old infrastructure. Some assets have been bought by private equity firms which have expanded significantly in the region, with companies such as Chrysaor and Siccar acquiring fie...

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