Saturday 19 January 2019

One bidder left as two exit San Leon talks

Oisin Fanning, who heads up oil and gas exploration company San Leon
Oisin Fanning, who heads up oil and gas exploration company San Leon

John Mulligan

Oil and gas exploration firm San Leon has said takeover talks for the company with two parties have been terminated - but talks with another potential suitor are continuing.

China Great United Petroleum and Geron Energy Investment had been circling the company, headed by former Smart Telecom boss Oisin Fanning, for an extended period.

Geron Energy Investment first signalled in December 2016 that it was interested in making an offer to buy San Leon. China Great United Petroleum stepped into the fray in June last year.

AIM-listed San Leon said yesterday that both those companies have now confirmed that they do not intend to make an offer for the exploration firm.

San Leon had indicated last summer that China Great United Petroleum had made an indicative takeover offer for the company at a substantial premium to the share price.

That indicative offer was between 60p and 76p per share, compared to the 30p that San Leon shares were changing hands for at the time.

It said during the summer that the Chinese company hoped to be able to make a formal offer within 45 days.

That offer period elapsed, however, without a formal offer being made. But San Leon had remained in dialogue with China Great United Petroleum.

San Leon added yesterday that Midwestern, which made an approach last month, remains in discussions about a possible transaction.

If that deal happens, it would constitute a reverse takeover under AIM rules.

"These discussions may or may not lead to a transaction being completed between San Leon and Midwestern," said San Leon.

Trading in San Leon's shares remains suspended.

San Leon is active in a number of countries, but its 9.7pc stake in the OML18 concession in Nigeria arguably offers the most potential.

Midwestern is a partner in the Nigerian concession.

Located in the southern Niger River delta, the concession covers 1,035 sq km and contains nine existing fields.

Combined, those fields have produced a total of more than one billion barrels of oil or condensate, and 1.8 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Last month, San Leon paid off a debt owed to Avobone, a former partner in a Polish asset with whom relations deteriorated.

The £11m (€12.3m) loan was provided by Toscafund, a London-based hedge fund run by Martin 'The Rottweiler' Hughes - one of the best-known fund managers in the City of London.

Toscafund owns around 60pc of San Leon.

Irish Independent

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