By Clara Denina , Jonathan Saul, Dasha Afanasieva and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
LONDON/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) is likely to shelve plans to list its struggling offshore drilling division because of weak market conditions, according to five finance sources familiar with the matter.
The Danish company is now expected to focus on a trade sale of Maersk Drilling, and extend the timeline to divest the unit beyond its initial target of the end of 2018, said the sources who declined to be named as the discussions are private.
Maersk group has not publicly put a price tag on the division, but analysts value it at around $4.8 billion.
It has not yet received any firm offers for the unit, according to two of the sources. But offshore rig firm Borr Drilling (BDRILL.OL), whose biggest shareholder is the world’s largest oil service firm Schlumberger (SLB.N), and Houston-based Diamond Offshore (DO.N) were considering bids, sources said.
Maersk group declined to comment on the divestment process, which it announced in September 2016, adding it was “thoroughly reviewing all structural options available”, including a listing or trade sale.
Borr Drilling declined to comment, while Diamond Offshore did not respond to a request for comment.
One of the sources said that the Maersk family’s investment company, A.P. Moller Holding, could itself consider buying the unit.
The holding company of the family, which is the biggest Maersk group shareholder with a stake of 41.5 percent, declined to comment.
The proposed sale is part of Maersk group’s restructuring plan of divesting energy businesses - including oil exploration, oil tankers and supply services - to focus on shipping, ports and logistics.
The strategy could allow the company to shed any conglomerate discount in the way investors value its shares. The aim is to build an integrated container shipping firm, giving customers the chance to deal with one company when transporting goods, from factory to shop shelf.
The listing option was shelved because of sluggish investor appetite in the drilling sector, which plagued by an oversupply of rigs and has not yet recovered from a downturn in oil prices.
More broadly, investors and bankers have cautioned initial public offerings will become tougher in Europe as the year progresses to do as money gets tighter and potential investors are more cautious after being burnt by some high-profile failures.
In fact several companies expected to hold IPOs have instead opted for sale at the eleventh hour, including British online betting company Sky Bet.
Maersk Drilling reported a loss of $1.5 billion last year versus a loss of $709 million in 2016, hit by an accounting impairment of $1.75 billion following the classification as discontinued operations.
AS part of its restructuring, Maersk group agreed last year to sell its oil and gas business, Maersk Oil, to French oil major Total (TOTF.PA) in a $7.5 billion deal.
Reporting by Clara Denina, Jonathan Saul, Dasha Afanasieva, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis in Oslo; Editing by Pravin Char