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Weatherford mulls sale of larger business in bid to pay down debt

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By Liz Hampton

HOUSTON, May 22 (Reuters) - Oilfield service company Weatherford International Plc may have to sell one of its larger businesses next year to pay down its sizeable debt, Chief Executive Officer Mark McCollum said on Tuesday.

McCollum, who became CEO 14 months ago, has been restructuring operations and selling assets to reduce the firm's about $7.8 billion in debt. Last December, Weatherford sold its U.S. fracking equipment business to rival Schlumberger and currently has several other businesses up for sale.

He did not identify which businesses the company was considering selling. It is a major provider of artificial lift gear, equipment used to increase oil and gas production in aging wells.

Weatherford was hit hard by the 2014 downturn in oil prices and has not posted a quarterly profit since September 2014. It posted 2017 revenue of $5.7 billion.

"I'm working for shareholders," McCollum said at the UBS Global Oil and Gas Conference in Austin, Texas, noting that he is "not falling in love with anything."

The company this year expects to close on the sale of four smaller assets, that together will generate around $500 million. Weatherford also is selling its land rig business, and has "multiple options" for that unit, McCollum said.

Weatherford's shares were up about 1.4 percent in midday trading at $3.63. (Reporting by Liz Hampton Editing by Marguerita Choy)