MILAN, Italy, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Italian energy company Eni said it was selling shares in its oil services subsidiary Saipem to finance the development of its oil and natural gas reserves.
Eni said it would sell a 12.5 percent stake in Saipem to a division of a state-controlled lender for about $7.2 billion. The Italian oil and gas producer continues to hold about 30 percent of Saipem after the close of the deal.
Eni Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi said the divestment represents a milestone in its efforts to transform itself in a new business climate marked by low crude oil prices.
"It enables us to focus on our core activities and to enhance our financial flexibility," he said in a statement. "The additional financial resources will be used to develop the very significant oil and gas reserves we have discovered over the past few years and to strengthen our balance sheet in line with our targets."
Eni this month secured a stronger position in emerging reserve basins off the coast of Egypt. In August, it announced the discovery of 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the Egyptian coast, the largest discovery made in regional waters and potentially the largest in the world.
For Saipem, which in July said it was eliminating about 8,000 jobs, the deal puts its debt structure back on par with its industry peers.
"We have acted quickly and incisively to downsize the cost base as required by the new oil-price scenario," CEO Stefano Cao said in a separate statement. "Today's announcement marks a turning point for Saipem."
Saipem in received word from Russian natural gas company Gazprom its contract to build South Stream, a natural gas pipeline through Turkey was cancelled.