By Ron Bousso
LONDON (Reuters) - Italian energy giant Eni has entered exclusive talks to acquire private-equity backed gas and oil producer Neptune Energy after sweetening its previous offer to below $6 billion, industry sources said.
The two firms entered a new phase of exclusive discussions in recent weeks following months of slow negotiations that started late last year, the sources said.
Eni agreed to slightly increase its offer for Neptune, which still remains in a range between $5 to $6 billion, the sources said.
Though the exclusive talks indicate that negotiations have significantly progressed, there was no guarantee that an agreement would be reached, the sources said.
Eni and Neptune both declined to comment.
Neptune produced around 142,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) in the first quarter of 2023, three-quarters of which is gas.
It has operations in Norway - home to Eni's Var unit - Britain, Indonesia - where Neptune shares licences with Eni - Algeria, the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Neptune is owned by China Investment Corporation (CIC), the Carlyle Group and CVC Capital Partners.
(Reporting by Ron Bousso, Editing by Louise Heavens)