LONDON Dec 19 Shares in Kurdistan-focused
oil explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum soared on Monday
following a report that U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil Corp
was mulling a takeover bid at five times the company's closing
share price on Friday.
The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported that Exxon is
considering making an estimated 800 pence per share bid for
Britain's Gulf Keystone, which has made huge oil finds in the
semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq. The reported bid
values Gulf Keystone at around 7 billion pounds ($10.9 billion).
A source close to the situation downplayed the story, noting
bidders rarely make offers at more than a 50 percent premium to
targets' pre-bid share price.
Analysts dismissed the prospect of such a high bid from the
notoriously financially disciplined Texas-based oil giant, which
made headlines with its recent entry into the semi-autonomous
Kurdish region of Iraq.
"We fear an element of yuletide wishful thinking may also be
playing a part," said Richard Savage, oil analyst at brokerage
Nonetheless, Gulf Keystone shares traded up 24 percent at
205.75 pence at 0851 GMT.
Exxon became the first major to move into the Kurdish region
in mid-October when it signed with the Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) for six exploration blocks, a move which has
angered the Baghdad government.
Industry sources said that many big western oil companies
have been mulling an entry into Kurdistan, by either buying
existing players in the region, many of whom are small
independents, or by buying new licencing blocks.
Gulf Keystone said in September it was seeking a buyer for
its 20 percent interest in the Akri-Bijeel block in Kurdistan in
order to help finance ongoing development of other assets.
Industry sources said the company has mulled a possible sale
of others parts, or all, of its interests in Kurdistan.
(Additional reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mike Nesbit)