Oil major Total has confirmed it is interested in buying the liquefied natural gas assets of Engie, a state-back French energy utility.

Total’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said the French company is in talks with Engie but was also exploring other option.

“I can confirm we’ve discussed with Engie, like other companies, and we’ll see if we can find an agreement. If not, we have other ideas, other opportunities, to develop the LNG business,” Mr Pouyanne told Bloomberg on Tuesday.

One person with knowledge of the deal said, if it was to proceed, it was likely to be valued in the hundreds of millions of euro.

LNG is gas super-cooled to -160°C so it can be carried in tankers. It has been falling in price due to an increase in supply which has in turn impacted profitability in the sector.

Mr Pouyanne’s comments follow a statement from Engie on Monday that it had “launched a strategic review of its upstream and midstream LNG activities” and that “there can be no certainty as to whether the discussions with the counterparties, including Total, will lead to any agreement.”

Engie added that its downstream LNG activities “are not part of the review.”

The French state recently said it was selling a 4.1 per cent stake in Engie as president Emmanuel Macron seeks funds for his policies while keeping deficit in line with EU rules. The sale will reduce the state’s stake from about 29 per cent to 25.5 per cent.

Engie’s shares have gained 2.2 per cent over the past five days.

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