By Jessica DiNapoli and David French

NEW YORK, Oct 2 (Reuters)PJ Solomon LP laid off staffers in its energy group due to the slowdown in acquisitions and divestitures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and sinking oil prices, the U.S. investment bank said on Friday.

Oil and gas dealmaking has cratered this year as exploration companies focus on retaining cash amid low commodity prices and increased pressure from shareholders to boost returns. The value of transactions in the three months to June 30 was the third-lowest quarter since 2009, according to data firm Enverus.

PJ Solomon let go four employees, the equivalent of nearly a third of its Houston-based staff, who were tasked with helping investment bankers make recommendations on valuations of oil and gas assets, a person familiar with the matter said.

“On the investment banking side, we remain actively engaged with clients and will continue to serve as their trusted advisors over the long run,” the bank said in a statement.

PJ Solomon, whose headquarters is in New York, started up a Houston-based energy practice in 2016. French bank Natixis SA CNAT.PA, which owns PJ Solomon, announced in May it was withdrawing from financing shale oil and gas projects and the companies which undertake them.

(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli and David French Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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