* EnQuest hires Jefferies for sale of 20 pct stake in Kraken
* Sale could fetch up to $400 mln - analyst estimates
* Company previously tried to sell with little success
* Hopes to get more interest following its June start-up
By Ron Bousso
LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - North Sea-focused oil and gas producer EnQuest has hired investment bank Jefferies to advise on a sale of a 20 percent stake in its recently-started Kraken field, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The sale could fetch as much as $400 million for EnQuest, based on recent analyst valuations of the field. EnQuest holds a 70.5 percent stake in Kraken where production is expected to ramp up to 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) by mid-year following its start-up last June.
EnQuest declined to comment.
EnQuest has previously sought buyers for a stake in its flagship $2.5 billion development to help with its costs but talks with Israeli conglomerate Delek Group failed in 2016.
The heavily-indebted company, headed by Chief Executive Amjad Bseisu, is hoping to attract more interest now that the field is up and running.
The recent sharp rise in oil prices to around $70 a barrel, levels not seen since 2014, is expect to spur further interest, banking sources said.
The start-up of the field has had some technical hiccups that forced the company to cut its production targets for 2017.
Last November, EnQuest said Kraken was producing around 23,000 bpd, with production expected to reach its target in the first half of 2018.
EnQuest’s lenders in November agreed to ease the terms of its loans as it struggled with a debt of around $2 billion compared with a market value of around $680 million.
In the sale document, EnQuest, which specialises in extending the life of ageing fields, said it intended to open a dataroom in January and set a deadline for bids in March or April.
Analysts at Barclays in December valued EnQuest’s 70.5 percent stake at around $1.4 billion while Jefferies analysts valued it at around $1.3 billion. Cairn Energy owns the remaining 29.5 percent in the Kraken field. ($1 = 0.7205 pounds) (Editing by Jane Merriman)