OPHIR WANTS SALAMANDER: £275 MLN
Gas exploration group Ophir Energy is in talks to buy rival producer and developer Salamander Energy , as it seeks to extend its footprint into Asia.
Ophir was pursuing a deal for Salamander – which owns exploration licences in Indonesia and Thailand – as it represents an attractive way for the group to continue its planned expansion, said people familiar with the discussions. Ophir made its first step in this direction in March, when it won a licence from Myanmar for offshore exploration.
A bid could value Salamander at about £275m, according to reports at the weekend. Salamander declined to comment.
Nick Cooper, chief executive of Ophir, would not comment on the reports, which first appeared in The Sunday Times, but said: "We are excited by the exploration and market opportunities in southeast Asia."
He is familiar with Salamander's business, however, having co-founded the company and held the post of chief financial officer until he left to head Ophir more than three years ago.
Spanish energy company Cepsa, owned by Abu Dhabi investment fund IPIC, has also made an approach to Salamander, said people familiar with the discussions.
Salamander's share price closed on Friday at 80.25p, giving the company a market capitalisation of £207m.
Earlier this year, Salamander began talks to sell a stake in its offshore fields in the Gulf of Thailand to Sona Petroleum, a Malaysian bid vehicle. But the proposed deal has run into difficulty as the oil price has fallen to $86 a barrel, having stood at $115 in June.
Ophir has been seeking deals after withdrawing its approach for larger FTSE 250-rival Premier Oil in April. Its initial merger proposal was rejected by Premier's board.
Last year, Ophir sold a $1.3bn stake in its Tanzanian gasfield to Temasek, Singapore's state investment company.
Shares in Ophir, which concentrates on gas exploration in Africa with work in Equatorial Guinea and in Tanzania, have fallen 38 per cent over the past year. They closed at 202.7p on Friday, giving the company a market capitalisation of £1.2bn.
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