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Thai giant enters race for €900m Cove Energy

State-owned Thai oil and exploration firm PTTEP has expressed an interest in buying €900m-valued Irish resources firm Cove Energy, which put itself up for auction just before Christmas.

Cove Energy, led by former Petroceltic boss John Craven, ex-Minmet chief Michael Nolan and industry veteran Michael Blaha, may share close to €40m from the sale of their company, which has a stake in a vast gas field off the coast of Mozambique.

Cove Energy was formed from the shell of another Irish resources company called Lapp Platts, which was originally a nickel exploration firm spun out of Minmet about 10 years ago.

Minmet was once called Feltrim Mining and was set up by the late Charlie Haughey's son Conor, together with the late Bernie Cahill, a former chairman of Aer Lingus and Greencore.

Mr Craven spent just over €2m buying the gas exploration acreage which subsequently was found to contain massive amounts of gas.

The azure waters off the east coast of Africa have become one of the hottest spots in the world for gas exploration, with major oil and energy firms falling over each other to buy up assets in the region.

The insatiable energy demands of growing Asian economies are fuelling the energy race.

"We are studying a plan but no real decision has been made whether we will make a bid or not," PTTEP chief executive Anon Sirisaengtaksin said last week.

"Eventually, it will depend on the price . . . We are keen on some projects with most of the assets located in Africa. This bidding is not easy because there are several countries interested to enter the race," he added.

Earlier this month the Sunday Independent reported that Indian state resources firm ONGC was interested in buying Cove Energy. Another Indian group, Gail India, has also been linked with a move for the AIM-listed company.

Sunday Indo Business