Wednesday 21 August 2019

Three bidders circle Fanning's shale oil group San Leon Energy

San Leon Energy chief Oisin Fanning
San Leon Energy chief Oisin Fanning

Jason Corcoran

Two new bidders have emerged in the race to acquire Oisin Fanning's Dublin-based oil and gas company, San Leon Energy. San Leon is worth close to €50m based on last Friday's closing price.

The AIM-listed company - which is backed by billionaire George Soros and BlackRock Inc - said in August it had been approached about a possible takeover. Two additional bidders have now joined the pursuit of the firm.

Neither of the three bidders are believed to come from the US or Europe.

"The board of San Leon confirms that it has received an approach from a possible offeror, that may or may not lead to an offer being made for San Leon There can be no certainty that an offer will be made or as to the terms on which any offer might be made," the company said three months ago.

San Leon is headed up by former MMI stockbrokers and Smart Telecoms boss Fanning. Toscafund, run by British hedge fund star Martin Hughes, also has a major shareholding.

The company, one of Europe's leading shale gas companies, saw its share price sink to 49.15p on Friday from 62.75p on August 25 after the first bid materialised.

San Leon is mainly focused on Poland, although it has interests elsewhere in Europe and north Africa, as well as a stake in the Barryroe field off the coast of Cork, currently controlled by Tony O'Reilly Jr's Providence Resources.

The firm has interests in six licence areas in Poland in a joint venture with Talisman Energy. In July, San Leon dropped several Polish licences to cut costs. It also announced plans to raise €40m in a share placing.

A slump in oil prices have made fracking less attractive in many countries in eastern Europe and Africa, which lack much of the necessary infrastructure and where drilling costs are high. The process of hydraulic fracturing produces shale gas by pumping rock formations with a mixture of water and chemicals at very high pressure.

Polish officials are hopeful that commodity prices will rebound, and that commercial shale production will begin, so the country will no longer have to rely on Russia for about 60pc of its gas needs.

US energy majors such as Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have all pulled out of projects in eastern Europe over the past year.

The Polish Geological Institute three years ago estimated recoverable reserves of shale gas in the country at 350bn-770bn cubic metres, about one-tenth of previous estimates by a US agency.

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