Finance/Companies news briefs�May 12

Gaz de France � Precision Drilling Corp. � Plains Energy Services Ltd. � Rio Alto Exploration Ltd. � Renata Resources Inc. � Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd. � Ranger Oil Ltd. � Gulf Canada Resources Inc. � Petrovera Resources � PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd. � Australian Gas Light Co. � Australian Pipeline Trust � Dongguan Gas Corp. � Foshan Gas Corp. � and more


Gaz de France will retain its state-owned status, according to reports on the draft law that will implement in France the EU directive on gas deregulation. Industry Minister Christian Pierret will submit the law to the Council of Ministers May 17. Despite much talk about opening up GdF's capital to Electricit�e France and TotalFinaElf SA�or better still, becoming a soci� anonyme to enable the gas utility to develop along the entire gas value chain in order to better compete with new entrants in French gas markets�the government feels constrained by its left wing and the powerful trade unions to keep GdF's status unchanged. Those trade unions are planning a national demonstration June 8 in Nice, where the World Gas Congress is being held. One option for GdF would be to join forces with EdF to carry out operations abroad. This would not require parliamentary approval. Nonetheless, the objective of GdF President Pierre Gadonneix to double the firm's size within the next 5 years should take much longer to achieve.

Precision Drilling Corp., Calgary, has made a $250 million (Can.) unsolicited takeover bid for Plains Energy Services Ltd. Plains said the offer substantially undervalues its company. Precision said it had tried to negotiate a friendly takeover but failed. Precision, Canada�s largest drilling company, said Plains has several divisions that would fit well with Precision operations. It said a major asset of Plains is its new fleet of nine coiled-tubing drilling rigs. The Precision bid is contingent on obtaining a minimum 50.1% of Plains shares.

Rio Alto Exploration Ltd., Calgary, has agreed to buy Renata Resources Inc., Calgary, in a friendly takeover for $129.7 million (Can.) in cash, stock, and assumed debt. Renata is a natural gas-oriented firm with oil and gas exploration properties in Northwest Alberta, including the developing Lambert-Kakwa play. Renata has production of about 4,400 boe/d. Rio Alto produced 80,000 boe/d in the first quarter.

Petrobank Energy and Resources Ltd., Calgary, says it is considering a number of options for its $1.6 billion (Can.) hostile takeover bid for larger Ranger Oil Ltd., also of Calgary. The takeover offer was due to expire May 12, and the companies are embroiled in a court action before a New York City court. Options under consideration include letting the bid expire, resubmitting it with a later expiry date, or changing the original offer. Ranger Chairman Simon Reisman said he understands Petrobank may modify its original offer and set an expiry date of May 23. Ranger filed a suit in New York to block the takeover, and the case has been postponed until the week of May 15. Ranger, one of Canada�s largest independents, has substantial E&P assets in Canada, the North Sea, Africa, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Canada Resources Inc., Calgary, says it expects to sell its interest in Petrovera Resources, Calgary, within 60 days. Analysts value the Gulf interest at more than $300 million (Can.). Gulf has a 47% interest in Petrovera, a joint venture of Gulf and PanCanadian Petroleum Ltd. (53%). Gulf is selling assets to reduce a net debt of about $1.9 billion. The company reported profit of $5 million in first quarter 2000 compared with a loss of $46 million in the same quarter a year ago.

Australian Gas Light Co.�s 70,000 shareholders will receive priority allocation of around 1,000 units in the proposed June 13 float of the group�s $1.36 billion (Aus.) pipeline spinoff, Australian Pipeline Trust. APT will own the group�s 7,000 km of high-pressure pipelines in Australia. In decoupling its pipeline assets from its growth prospects in power generation and distribution, AGL is hoping to revive the group�s sagging share price. AGL will retain a 30% share of the trust. APT is also looking at plans to take a 20% stake in a proposed $1.5 billion (Aus.) pipeline project to link the Timor Sea gas fields to the Australian mainland. This is in addition to linking the existing AGL pipeline network in New South Wales with the proposed Papua New Guinea-to-Queensland pipeline when that line begins flowing in 2004.

China has decided to cut to 30% from 35% the share of investment to be owned by foreign companies in its first LNG project, slated to start construction in 2002 in the southern province of Guangdong. As a result of the reduction, Guangdong's share in the project has increased to 34% from a planned 29%. New shareholders Dongguan Gas Corp. and Foshan Gas Corp. will each hold 2.5% of the $600 million project, which includes a 300 million tonne/year terminal. DGC and FGS are major gas buyers in the cities of Dongguan and Foshan in Guangdong. The planned interests of other Chinese shareholders are China National Offshore Oil Corp., 36%; Shenzhen Investment Management Corp., 15%; Guangzhou Gas Corp., 6%; and Guangdong Power Bureau, 8%. The increase in the project's local share component is aimed at boosting the confidence of Chinese LNG end users by improving the project's transparency and allowing local consumers more say in it. China hasn't set a tender date for foreign partners for the project, which will includes terminal and pipeline construction.

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