By Ron Bousso
LONDON (Reuters) - BP and Aker said on Wednesday they are exploring a possible sale of a 5% stake in their Norwegian oil and gas joint venture Aker BP, after its shares hit an all time high this week.
If the sale goes ahead, BP would sell an approximate 2.1% stake and Aker a 2.9% stake, reducing their stakes in Aker BP to 27.9% and 37.1% respectively.
The sale would increase the free float in the company to 35%, they said in a statement.
Aker BP, which was created in 2016 when BP and Aker merged their Norwegian upstream operations, today has a market value of around $14.6 billion.
Its shares closed at 345.40 NOK ($40.55), slightly below an all-time high of 349.80 NOK they hit on Nov. 8.
Last month Aker BP increased its dividend payout after third-quarter profits soared on the back of strong oil and gas prices.
"Aker BP has established itself as an undoubted Norwegian success story, with its value increasing significantly over the past five years," BP Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney said.
"This transaction will enable bp to realise some of the considerable value Aker BP has already generated while remaining committed to its ongoing success and value creation for shareholders."
The sale is part of BP's target of delivering $25 billion of divestment and other proceeds by 2025.
BP and Aker retained J.P. Morgan and Pareto Securities as Joint Global Coordinators and Joint Bookrunners to explore the potential block sale, they said.
($1 = 8.5185 Norwegian crowns)
(Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by David Gregorio)