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Marathon Oil in talks to sell Alberta oil sands stake

Marathon Oil’s Texas City refinery is shown in this file photo. The company is in talks to sell a portion of its stake in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project in Alberta.

David J. Phillip/AP

Marathon Oil Corp. said on Wednesday it is in negotiations to sell a portion of its 20-per-cent stake in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project in Canada as part of a strategy to shed less profitable assets.

Marathon and a number of other exploration and production companies, including ConocoPhillips Co., have put billions of dollars of oil and gas properties up for sale in a bid to focus capital on projects that generate higher returns.

No sale of the non-operated Athabasca interest can be assured, Houston-based Marathon said.

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Earlier this month, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Indian state-run exploration company Oil and Natural Gas Corp. planned to approach Marathon about buying half of its interest in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project in northern Alberta.

A spokeswoman for Marathon declined to comment on the oil sands negotiations.

Marathon, which spun off its refining business last year, has said it expects to raise up to $3-billion in asset sales through 2013. So far, it said, it has agreements totalling $1.1-billion.

That figure includes the pending sale of its Alaska Cook Inlet assets for $375-million to privately held Hilcorp. Also for sale are 100,000 "non-core" acres in the Eagle Ford Basin in South Texas, where Marathon is drilling for oil.

Shares of Marathon rose 10 cents to $29.66 (U.S.) in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

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