Finance/Companies news briefs, Aug. 22

Kerr-McGee�Statoil Exploration US�Mullen Transportation�E-Can Oilfield Services Group�Ultramar Diamond Shamrock�Tosco�El Paso Energy�Enerplus Group�Vastar Resources�BP�Lyondell Chemical�Petroleos de Venezuela SA�Diversa�Celanese


Kerr-McGee Corp. said it has acquired all of Statoil Exploration US Inc.'s leasehold interests in 93 blocks in the deepwater region of the Gulf of Mexico. The acquisition gives Kerr-McGee interests in 33 new leases and increases its current working interests from 33.33% to 66.67% in 60 blocks. The blocks, in water depths ranging from 1,700 feet to more than 9,500 feet, are located in the Alaminos Canyon, Atwater Valley, Ewing Bank, Garden Banks, Green Canyon, Keathley Canyon, and Walker Ridge areas of the gulf.

Mullen Transportation Inc., Aldersyde, Alta., said it has agreed to purchase the issued and outstanding shares of the E-Can Oilfield Services Group of Companies, Elk Point, Alta., for an unspecified amount of cash and shares. The transaction is scheduled to close Aug. 31, subject to usual conditions. E-Can Oilfield Services provides specialized equipment and personnel to assist in the pumping, hauling, and disposal of fluids associated with the processing and production of heavy oil.

Ultramar Diamond Shamrock Corp. said the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act for its acquisition of Tosco Corp.'s Avon refinery in the San Francisco Bay area of California has expired. UDS said other conditions relating to the purchase should be satisfied within the next couple of weeks, allowing the transaction�worth $650 million-$800 million�to close earlier than previously expected.

El Paso Energy Corp. said it has formed a strategic affiliation with The Enerplus Group by purchasing the Enerplus companies responsible for the management of various public and private oil and gas income funds. El Paso said Enerplus is Canada's oldest and largest manager of public and private oil and gas income funds, including the EnerMark Income Fund. The acquisition will be made through a newly formed subsidiary of EnCap Investments LLC, acquired by El Paso in March 1999.

Vastar Resources Inc. directors scheduled a special shareholders' meeting for 9 a.m. Sept. 15 at the company's Houston headquarters to vote on the company's proposed merger with BP. Under that proposal, BP would acquire the remaining 18.2% of Vastar stock that it does not already hold for $83/share. Only shareholders of record�those who owned shares at the close of business on July 28�will be eligible to vote at the meeting.

Discussions concerning a buyout option of Lyondell Chemical Co.'s interest by Petroleos de Venezuela SA in the two companies' joint venture Lyondell-Citgo Refining LP have ceased, said Lyondell. The two companies "are now concentrating on successfully refinancing the LCR debt and operating the venture to maximize its value," said a Lyondell statement. Lyondell holds 58.75% interest in the joint-venture company.

Diversa Corp., San Diego, Calif., said it has signed an agreement with Celanese Ltd., an affiliate of Celanese AG, for an evaluation project to discover and develop microorganisms capable of producing chemical products at rates substantially higher than traditional microbial strains. Under the terms of the agreement, Celanese will fund discovery and optimization at Diversa and pay royalties on the sale of products utilizing improved strains. In return, Celanese will have exclusive rights to commercialize strains discovered or developed within specified commodity and specialty chemical applications.

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