(Bloomberg) -- TotalEnergies SE is considering a bid for private equity-backed oil and gas explorer Neptune Energy Group Ltd., people with knowledge of the matter said.

The French company is among suitors that have held early-stage talks with Neptune about a possible takeover, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. 

Neptune, which is backed by Carlyle Group Inc. and CVC Capital Partners, could be valued at more than $5 billion in a sale, Bloomberg News reported previously. The company had earlier attracted interest from Italian energy group Eni SpA, but this cooled over price expectations.

Shares in TotalEnergies were trading down 0.09% at 2:58 p.m. in Paris, reversing earlier gains and giving the company a market value of €145 billion ($160 billion).

An acquisition would give TotalEnergies oil and gas production assets across Europe, North Africa and Asia Pacific. Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty will decide to proceed with an offer, the people said. 

Representatives for Carlyle, CVC, Neptune and TotalEnergies declined to comment.

Neptune was formed in 2015 by former Centrica Plc boss Sam Laidlaw. Its owners have been working with advisers including Rothschild & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to explore options for the business.


--With assistance from Francois de Beaupuy.

(Updates with TotalEnergies shares in fourth paragraph.)

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