Global oil behemoths Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil are thought to be planning the sale of BEB, the German natural gas network operator, as they no longer consider it to be a core operation, Reuters has reported, citing German online business publication as a source.

Although the companies have both declined to comment on the suspected deal, which is reported to be worth at least E1 billion, industry speculation regarding the transaction is rife. According to Reuters, it could be the logical next step for the companies, as they sold their respective stakes in the Dutch gas system in 2004 and Shell has continued to divest non-core operations ever since.

BEB, which is 50%-owned by Shell and 50%-owned by ExxonMobil, runs a 3,100km gas pipeline network, which is predominately situated in northern Germany, and supplies 30 billion cubic meters of gas, said Reuters, citing

The German business publication is reported to have cited industry sources who claimed that the companies’ sale transaction is already in its later stages.

However, Dow Jones cited anonymous people familiar with the matter as saying that although they were unaware of ExxonMobil’s plans, they could confirm that Shell had been approached by a number of unnamed interested parties. The sources added that Shell is yet to make a decision about its 50% interest, but commented that the company may be looking to divest it through an asset swap, rather than a cash transaction.