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ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM - Analyst Report) has inked an agreement with Neftegaz America Shelf LP, a subsidiary of Russia's state-controlled oil firm OAO Rosneft. Per the deal, ExxonMobil divests a 30% stake in 20 exploration blocks located in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) to Neftegaz. However, the firms did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

The divested blocks cover 111,600 acres (450 square kilometers) in water depths ranging between 2,100 feet and 6,800 feet (640 meters and 2,070 meters). ExxonMobil would still remain the operator and hold a 70% stake in each block with production yet to start and seismic analysis currently under way.

Of the 20 blocks, 17 are in the Western US Gulf while 3 are in the Central US Gulf. The Western Gulf blocks comprise of the following: Alaminos Canyon 569, 612, 613, 655, 656, 657, 698, 699, 700 and 701; East Breaks 429, 471, 472, 473 and 515; Keathley Canyon 529 and 573. On the other hand, blocks in the Central GoM are Walker Ridge 629, 673 and 717.

The latest deal is an offshoot of the alliance between Rosneft and ExxonMobil signed in 2011. The earlier pact underlines the companies’ aim to jointly explore and develop hydrocarbon resources in Russia's Arctic shelf and shale oil in Western Siberia.

ExxonMobil has a solid track record of secure hydrocarbon exploration in the GoM region with the help of its state-of-the-art safety and environmental protection infrastructures. Hence, this partnership will ensure the most proficient development of these blocks, using the newest technologies while maintaining high environmental standards.

This alliance in the GoM will also enable ExxonMobil to gain access to joint exploration projects in the prolific and mostly untapped Black Sea and Arctic shelves. ExxonMobil’s joint venture with Rosneft will allow joint development of mature oil fields in Western Siberia as well as gain access to the know-how for developing unreachable resources. The deal could unlock about 36 billion barrels of oil reserves in the unexploited Russian offshore province. These developments are expected to boost its earnings in the near future.

In recent times, Italian energy major Eni SpA (E - Analyst Report) and Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil ASA (STO - Analyst Report) have also joined forces with Rosneft to develop Arctic fields.

ExxonMobil has a Zacks Rank #3, which translates into a Hold rating for a period of 1 to 3 months. Another energy integrated major Total SA (TOT - Analyst Report) appears to have better fundamentals and retains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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