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Denmark's DONG Energy to get out of oil and gas business

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Danish energy group DONG Energy plans to quit the oil and gas business to focus solely on offshore wind power, adding to billions of dollars of North Sea oil and gas assets already up for sale.

DONG said last month it would sharpen its focus on wind power and could shed its oil and gas business, having hired JP Morgan to review the assets.

DONG's decision follows similar steps by European utilities E.ON and RWE, which have both divested their oil and gas business to try to become simpler structures, free up cash and remove conglomerate discounts on their shares.

"We want to get to the right transaction, that obviously provides value to shareholders and provides the oil and gas business with the right long term opportunities," Chief Executive Henrik Poulsen said on a conference call on Tuesday.

"We are still in a very early stage of exploring market interest, but it is our impression that there is interest in an asset of this kind," he said, adding the company had not set a deadline for selling the business.

DONG Energy, the world's biggest operator of offshore wind power, listed in Copenhagen in June, marketing itself as a renewable energy play rather than an oil and gas company.

Analysts at Sydbank said DONG's oil and gas assets could be worth up to 14 billion Danish crowns ($2.1 billion). DONG produced 115,000 barrels of oil and gas per day last year, although that has fallen to 89,000 barrels daily this year.

DONG's sale would directly compete with billions of dollars of oil and gas assets already up for grabs, many in the North Sea where costs are relatively high due to the basin's maturity.

The wind business became its biggest contributor to earnings in the first half of 2016, overtaking oil and gas with 42 percent of operating profit.

DONG said Tuesday it expects the oil and gas business to turn cash flow positive this year, one year earlier than previously guided.

Reporting its third quarter results on Tuesday, the company maintained its full year profit (EBITDA) forecast for 20-23 billion crowns. DONG's shares were trading 0.16 percent lower at 253.6 crowns each by 0905 GMT.

DONG shares currently trade at 5.3 times EV/EBITDA, a discount to groups with a clearer focus on renewables such as Britain's SSE, Portugal's EDP Renovaveis SA and Germany's Innogy, which was split off from RWE last month.

DONG has stakes in 24 fields off Norway, including a 14-percent stake in Ormen Lange, a gas field that can provide up to 20 percent of Britain's gas needs, and is the operator of two fields, Oselvar and Trym.

Statoil and AkerBP could be interested in Dong's Norwegian licenses. Both companies have been buying up assets from companies wanting to exit Norway and have both said they are on the lookout for more opportunities.

DONG also stakes in 14 fields in the Danish part of the North Sea, where it operates five producing oil and gas fields.

In September, A.P. Moller-Maersk, which runs the world's biggest container shipping line, said it was seeking alliances or a separate listing for its energy operations while bulking up its transport business.