Italy’s Eni is considering the acquisition of private-equity backed gas and oil producer Neptune Energy in a potential transaction worth approximately $5bn to $6bn, reported Reuters, citing a source with knowledge of the matter.

Deliberations are at initial stage and an official bid has not been submitted, according to the source.

The Italian energy giant is working with an undisclosed adviser to assess the feasibility of the acquisition, reported Bloomberg News, citing people involved in the matter.

According to the people involved, Neptune Energy could also consider alternative transactions such as an initial public offering (IPO).

The acquisition is expected to provide Eni with the opportunity to expand its natural gas business.

Neptune’s owners have been working with advisers, including Goldman Sachs Group and Rothschild & Co., to gauge options for the company, including a potential sale. 

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Owned by the China Investment Corporation (CIC), the Carlyle Group, and CVC Capital Partners, Neptune has operations in Norway, Indonesia, Algeria, and the Netherlands, among others.

The firm has a production capacity of approximately 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd).

Earlier this week, Bloomberg News reported that Carlyle is assessing an offer for a majority stake in Austrian company OMV AG’s oil and gas portfolio.

The Austrian petrochemical firm owns assets in Libya, the UAE, and Norway.

By 2030, OMV intends to reduce oil and gas production by a fifth. It aims to exit upstream production by 2050.

Last month, TotalEnergies and Eni signed a framework agreement with the Israeli Government to implement a new maritime border accord between Israel and Lebanon.

The agreement allows the two firms to start exploration work on a prospect, with the potential to extend into both Block 9 and Israeli waters.