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Bloomberg: African Petroleum May Buy Shell Assets, People Say (Update1)

By Julie Ziegler

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — African Petroleum Plc, Nigeria’s largest fuel retailer, is competing with China’s Cnooc Ltd. to buy Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s stake in two offshore oil exploration licenses, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

A sale may be worth as much as $1 billion, said Sebastian Spio- Garbrah, an analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group. Bids for Shell’s 49.8 percent share in the blocks, known as Oil Mining Licenses 125 and 134, must be made by Dec. 7, the people said. Other companies bidding include a Middle Eastern firm, they said. Eni SpA, the operator of the exploration areas, owns the other 50.2 percent.

Shell, based in The Hague, lost about 50 percent of its production in Nigeria for more than 18 months following militant attacks on the Forcados export terminal in February 2006. Near- record oil prices are making asset sales more attractive as Shell invests billions in developments in Qatar and Russia.

“News that Shell is seeking to sell stakes in two oil blocks also raises broader questions about the company’s strategy in Nigeria, especially if it intends to grow its onshore and offshore assets,” Spio-Garbrah said in an e-mail.

Shell announced on Nov. 13 that it would consolidate its three Nigeria units to form a new group called “One Shell.”

Tony Okonedo, a spokesman for Shell’s deepwater unit in Nigeria, Xiao Zongwei, Cnooc’s Beijing-based spokesman, and Femi Otedola, chief executive officer of African Petroleum, declined to comment.

Bigger Cut

The sale would precede a government plan to get a bigger cut from deep-water production-sharing contracts, which were drafted during the 1990s when oil prices were less than $20 a barrel. The contracts allow Shell and others to operate without a joint venture with the government and to pay royalties once the cost of developing the field is recovered.

“We are operating in an extremely difficult environment where levels of production have been severely curtailed by the security situation for some time, where there is significant upward pressure on costs and where funding issues are having an impact on our operations,” Basil Omiyi, Shell’s country chairman for Nigeria, said in the Nov. 13 statement.

Any buyer of the Shell exploration stakes would probably need to be approved by the state oil company, which oversees the sale of blocks, Antony Goldman, a U.K.-based independent analyst specializing in Nigeria, said in an interview.

Controlling Shareholder

A successful bid would mark African Petroleum’s first acquisition of an oil block.

Otedola, who acquired a controlling stake of the company in May, was also involved in purchases of state assets when Olusegun Obasanjo was president of Nigeria, including the Hilton Abuja hotel, several oil blocks, and the state-owned telephone company. He was a partner in a group that bought two refineries in May and later backed out of the transaction, following criticism from labor unions.

Nigeria’s government has been seeking to give local companies a greater share in the oil and gas business. Tony Chukwueke, who heads the unit of state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that handles the sale of oil blocks, said on Nov. 1 that the nation was seeking to do business with smaller operators.

“We’re looking for new players,” Chukwueke said Nov. 1 in a speech in Cape Town. “We’re getting tired of the big Exxons and Shells. We’re looking for small” companies, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Ziegler in Abuja at [email protected] .

Last Updated: November 28, 2007 08:48 EST

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1 Comment on “Bloomberg: African Petroleum May Buy Shell Assets, People Say (Update1)”

  1. #1 Kenny
    on Apr 21st, 2008 at 11:38

    if any country who wants to buy petrolume oil. should please contact me here .

    here is my cell number : 238085112833

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