US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil has agreed to acquire 25% stake in the natural gas-rich Area 4 block, offshore Mozambique from Italian firm Eni for nearly $2.8bn.

Eni has a 50% indirect share in the block via a 71.4% interest in Eni East Africa, which in turn has a 70% stake in the Area 4 block.

The remainder interests in the natural gas field are held by Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Mozambique (ENH), Kogas and Galp Energia, with all the three having 10% stakes each.

Following the acquisition, ExxonMobil will be responsible for the onshore located natural gas liquefaction units’ construction and operation. On the other hand, Eni will continue to head the Coral floating LNG project as well as all upstream operations in the block.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said: “This deal represents material evidence of our exploration strategy based on the early monetization of our exploration discoveries, as a part of our ‘dual-exploration’ model.

“Through this strategy, Eni has been able to cash in more than $9bn in the last four years. Moreover, the agreement confirms the world class quality, production potential, technical and financial robustness of the entire project.”

The deal will give ExxonMobil a 35.7% stake in Eni East Africa to become its co-owner alongside Eni and CNPC which will have 35.7% and 28.6% of stakes respectively.

Area 4 block located in deepwater is estimated to have 85 trillion ft3 of natural gas which will be used for fueling a liquefied natural gas project. Both Eni and ExxonMobil are planning to invest tens of billions of dollars to develop the project.

ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Darren W Woods said: “This strategic investment will enable ExxonMobil’s LNG leadership and experience to support development of Mozambique’s abundant natural gas resources.

“Our industry-leading project execution, advanced technologies, financial strength and marketing capabilities will help deliver reliable, affordable energy to customers and create long-term economic value for the people of Mozambique, project partners and ExxonMobil shareholders.”

The deal will be closed after meeting various conditions including approvals from Mozambican and other regulatory bodies.

Earlier in the week, Eni has finalized a farm-in agreement with Total to acquire a 50% participating stake in Block 11 Offshore Cyprus.