IOCs looking into Tullow's Ugandan acreage

A spokesman for Tullow Oil PLC said ExxonMobil Corp. is one of 10 international oil companies apparently interested in acquiring a stake in Tullow’s acreage in Uganda.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 -- A spokesman for Tullow Oil PLC said ExxonMobil Corp. is one of 10 international oil companies apparently interested in acquiring a stake in Tullow’s acreage in Uganda.

Aidan Heavey, Tullow’s founder and chief executive officer, said Tullow has already pre-qualified 10 firms to bid for the stake and hopes to get a buyer by yearend. But neither Tullow nor the Ugandan government previously named any of the 10 firms.

ExxonMobil confirmed it is studying a possible entry in Tullow’s Ugandan project. A spokesperson said the US firm “routinely evaluates potential development opportunities around the world” but declined to comment further.

Analyst IHS Global Insight downplayed any involvement by ExxonMobil, saying “a decision to acquire an interest in Uganda's acreage would be unusual for ExxonMobil, since the size of the country's reserves, at between 2-5 billion bbl, is not of a global scale.”

The Tullow spokesman said “Tullow and Uganda are working very closely,” adding that an “initial list of potential partners has been agreed with the government.” His comments followed reports that Tullow opened a data room for potential buyers.

Eni SPA Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni acknowledged his firm has accessed the data room of Tullow’s Uganda oil project, while Total SA declined to comment on reports that it, too, is interested in Tullow’s Uganda acreage.

Tullow currently operates Block 2 with a 100% interest and also has a 50% non-operating interest in Blocks 1 and 3A where its exploration partner, Heritage Oil Corp., is operator.

Heavey told local media the firm appointed Standard Chartered Bank UK to sell half of its stake in the two oil fields.

In September, Tullow confirmed plans to sell part of its Ugandan assets to finance an oil pipeline project and other production infrastructure in the Lake Albertine basin.

Tim O'Hanlon, Tullow’s vice-president for African business, said a joint venture undertaking is crucial because “we are an exploration and production company, but not in the pipeline or refinery business…. We need a partner with expertise in this area (OGJ Online, Sept. 17, 2009).”

At the time, O’Hanlon said Tullow had “received many interested firms, but we are still screening them with the government to get the right partner.”

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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