(Refiled with dropped word Hong Kong in paragraph 7)
* Company holds large exploration acreage in Ethiopia
* Thinks Ethiopia is next in East Africa's oil surge
By Andrew Callus
LONDON, April 8 - Tewedros Ashenafi hopes his
Ethiopian exploration outfit will become the first indigenous
company to make a basin-opening discovery in sub-Saharan
Africa's 21st Century oil and gas boom.
His privately-held SouthWest Energy holds 46,000 square
kilometres of exploration acreage amounting to almost 4 percent
of the vast, land-locked east African country.
It is looking to drill three wells in 2013 and 2014 in its
Jijiga basin blocks on Ethiopia's border with Somalia in the
east of the country.
Geological similarities with oil-rich Yemen across the Red
Sea could help make a country which produces no oil or gas at
all into a 400,000 barrels a day producer, as much as western
neighbours Sudan and South Sudan can produce together, Ashenafi
The company also has acreage in the west, in the Gambella
basin bordering South Sudan, and in the nearby Jimma Block.
Ashenafi, a native of Ethiopia and the biggest shareholder
in the company he founded in 2005, was in London this week to
raise $100 million in a private finance placement to finance the
He would not disclose any other details about the Hong Kong
registered group's ownership and financing, except to say that
all board and advisory board directors are also shareholders.
Simon Murray and John Bond, respectively chairmen of the
international mining and commodities group Glencore and
its affiliate Xstrata, are on the advisory board. Miles
Morland, a director of the multinational brewer SABMiller
and a long-time Africa investor, is on the main board.
Ashenafi holds his owns stake through a family trust.
Gas was discovered in Ethiopia in 1972. Revolution and war
have held back development since then, but a wave of oil and gas
development has spread up the east coast in recent years from
Mozambique through Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
"Ethiopia, I think, is going to be next", Ashenafi told
Reuters by telephone.
"It has huge potential and is very underexplored. The Jijiga
basin alone is 367,000 square kilometres. That's larger than the
North Sea, and there have only been 50 wells drilled."
Potential exit routes for Ethiopian oil include Djibouti and
Somalia, and at 50,000 barrels a day and growing, home
consumption is a potential option too.
SouthWest Energy holds Jijiga blocks 9, 9A and 13, with
similar sedimentary rock to oil and gas-rich areas of the Middle
East. It estimates possible overall oil volume at between 1.5
billion and 3 billion barrels.
International companies working in Ethiopia include Tullow
Oil and Africa Oil which are exploring along the
country's southern border with Kenya.
(Editing by James Jukwey)