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BG Group wins control of Pure Energy

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By Peter Smith in Sydney

Published: March 23 2009 07:00 | Last updated: March 23 2009 07:00

BG Group has won control of Pure Energy after shareholders owning 70 per cent of the Australian group’s share register accepted the UK oil and gas group’s A$8 a share cash offer.

However, BG is yet secure the 20.3 per cent stake owned by Australia’s Arrow Energy, which this month abandoned its own pursuit of Pure.

BG has promised to increase its offer to A$8.25 a share, valuing Pure at A$1.03bn (£495m, US$720m)), although the higher price is conditional on it receiving 90 per cent acceptance and therefore Arrow’s backing.

Arrow, which stands to make a profit of about A$200m on its Pure stake, is yet to make its intentions known. Arrow’s acceptance may be complicated if it is hit with a large tax bill on the sale of its stake.

Pure is important to BG as the UK group attempts to cement its position in Australian coal bed methane – gas extracted from coal seams – which has been a focus of interest for many international energy groups over the past year.

The bid for Pure initially pitted BG against its larger rival Royal Dutch Shell, which is a joint venture partner of Arrow in developing coal bed methane in Australia and around the world.

However, Shell undermined Arrow’s chances of winning Pure when it said last month that it would sell its 11 per cent stake to BG, in the absence of a higher offer.

BG plans to use the coal bed methane it will produce in Australia to feed a liquefied natural gas plant in Queensland, to serve Asian markets. It has insisted that it would have enough gas to fill that plant even without Pure, thanks to its £2bn acquisition of Queensland Gas Company last year.

However, securing access to Pure’s reserves would make BG more comfortable that it could produce sufficient volumes for what is still an untried process. No-one has yet set up a commercial project using coal bed methane to produce LNG.

BG’s success suggests it is continuing to pull ahead of Shell, which has made less progress with its evaluation of a possible LNG plant in Queensland.

Pure has recommended the BG offer to its shareholders and said the price is attractive and should be accepted.

After becoming the majority owner of Pure, BG on Monday extended the offer period until April 6. Pure shares rose 2 cents to A$8.12 by the close of trading on the Australian Securities Exchange.

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