* North Atlantic Drilling to drill for Rosneft until 2022
* Deal a “game changer” for North Atlantic Drilling
* Troeim - not worried about falling offshore rig rates (Adds analyst, share, Sechin)
By Ole Petter Skonnord and Gwladys Fouche
OSLO, May 26 (Reuters) - The world’s largest offshore driller, Seadrill, will remain the majority owner in North Atlantic Drilling, board member Tor Olav Troeim said on Monday, after news at the weekend of a cooperation deal with Russia’s Rosneft.
On Saturday Russia’s largest oil company and North Atlantic Drilling, a rig firm controlled by shipping tycoon John Fredriksen, announced they would work together drilling oil and gas fields in Russia until 2022.
The deal is a coup for Fredriksen, nicknamed “Big Wolf” for his business instincts, as it gives him access to the Russian market on a large scale.
For Rosneft, it is an affirmation of the keenness of multinationals to do business with Russia, despite tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.
“Seadrill will remain the majority owner in North Atlantic Drilling. We have not thought about selling any shares. We have 70 percent today,” said Troeim, a Seadrill board member, adding the firm intended to retain a majority stake “for a long time”.
He made the comment after Rosneft boss Igor Sechin said his firm could take a stake of up to 50 percent in North Atlantic Drilling over time.
“We are even more optimistic about the company’s future after signing this deal,” Troeim said in an interview.
The deal, which would involve using onshore and offshore rigs in Russia until 2022, would initially deploy up to nine offshore rigs for an overall commitment of 35 rig years, Seadrill said on Monday.
“Seadrill again pulls something extraordinary out of the hat,” Fearnley Securities said in a note to clients.
“This is extremely positive. There are few details about how the contracts are set up and how the ownership structure will be. But for me and the market, this is a positive surprise,” said Kristoffer Riis Iden, an analyst at Arctic Securities in Oslo.
Shares in Seadrill jumped on the news in early trading and were up 3.0 percent at 1348 GMT, outperforming an Oslo benchmark index up 0.41 percent.
None of the companies said how much the deal was worth but Troeim said the deal was a “game changer” for North Atlantic Drilling, which specialises in drilling in harsh offshore areas.
“When Rosneft goes into the firm the idea is that this will be turned into an offshore company that will to a great degree serve Rosneft, which produces 5 million barrels a day and has activities worldwide,” said Troeim.
He did not expect sanctions placed on Sechin by the United States in response to the Ukraine crisis to affect the deal, even though Seadrill is also listed in the United States, as well as in Oslo.
“We will of course comply with international sanctions,” he said. “At the same time, this is a deal that was initiated long before the issue (of sanctions) became a topic and that will hopefully last long after a solution has been found.”
Separately, Troeim said he did not expect the market for rigs, which has declined slightly recently, to fall further.
“I am of course respectful of the fact that the market, in the short term, can be characterised by higher supply than demand, but I am not especially worried,” he said.
Seadrill is the world’s largest offshore oil driller by market capitalisation, ahead of Transocean. (Editing by Keiron Henderson)