Capital Oil & Gas

Chinese Oil Corporation taps into Nigerian resources

China's biggest offshore oil producer, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) Limited, will pay US$2.3 billion for a stake in a Nigerian oil and gasfield.

Hong Kong-listed CNOOC yesterday announced it had signed a definitive agreement with South Atlantic Petroleum Ltd to acquire a 45 per cent working interest in an offshore oil mining license OML 130 in the African country.

The purchase will be funded by internal resources of CNOOC, the company said in a statement.

Earlier yesterday, CNOOC had requested its stock to be suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange pending an announcement of a "disclosable transaction." The stock finished at HK$5.40 on Friday, having risen nearly 5 percent in the past three months.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of this year, and requires the approval from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNPC) and the Chinese Government, CNOOC said.

The block, operated by global oil company Total, contains the Akpo deepwater field, which is set to come on-stream in the second half of 2008. CNOOC said it would contribute capital expenditure of more than US$2 billion to develop the field.

The Akpo field, about 200 kilometers off the coast of Port Harcourt, will pump 225,000 barrels a day of oil equivalent after 2008, or 9 per cent of Nigeria's current production, according to operator Total SA.

When production peaks, likely in 2009, CNOOC's light oil entitlement from the block will be nearly 79,000 barrels a day, said Yang Hua, CNOOC's chief financial officer, during a conference call.

"The purchase of this interest in OML 130 helps CNOOC gain access to an oil and gas field of huge interest and upside potential, located in one of the world's largest oil and gas basins," said Fu Chengyu, chairman and chief executive of the Beijing-based offshore oil producer.

"The acquisition is in line with our goal of creating shareholder value, and it will add to our production targets and is within our pricing range," Yang told reporters. "Before the Akpo field starts production in the first half of 2008 we'll have a very small dilution in earnings per share. But after that, it will be one of the factors boosting earnings," Yang said.

CNOOC said it is paying US$4.60 per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) for the main part of its Nigeria acquisition. "It is obviously a very attractive price," Yang said.

CNOOC was a leading contender among several bidders for the asset, sources said.

India's government blocked Oil and Natural Gas Corp's bid for a reported 45 percent stake in the field last month because of unspecified risks.

The Nigeria move marks another overseas thrust by CNOOC to secure overseas reserves. CNOOC, which has made a string of overseas acquisitions in countries including Indonesia and Australia, lost out in a US$18.5 billion cash bid for Unocal last summer to US giant Chevron.

Gordon Kwan, director of China Oil and Gas Research with Hong Kong-based CLSA brokerage, said the rationale to acquire overseas reserves is to diversify risk, for oil and gas, and seize opportunities that could provide operational synergies with existing projects, while minimizing independent exploration risks.

"With potential gross recoverable reserves that could surpass 1 billion barrels, the OML filed is one of the world's giant oil discoveries. The deal will allow CNOOC to gain deepwater expertise that could be applied back in offshore China," Kwan said in an e-mail statement to customers.

South Atlantic's stake in the Akpo field was formally put up for sale last September. The field needs billions of dollars of investment.

Other partners in the field are Nigerian National Petroleum Corp and Petrobras.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and the world's eighth-largest oil exporter, producing 2.4 million barrels per day.



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