On Thursday 20 October, Italian oil and gas group ENI confirmed that it was in talks with a buyer for a stake in its Area-4 gas field in Mozambique but said a deal had not yet been reached.
Italian broker Equita said in a note to clients earlier on Thursday that according to the chairman of Mozambique energy company ENH, ENI had sold a majority stake and the operatorship in Area-4 to ExxonMobil.
“Talks with a potential buyer are ongoing. However, a deal has not yet been finalised”, an ENI spokesperson said.
State-controlled ENI, which owns 50% of Area-4, had previously said it was ready to sell up to 25% as part of a disposal programme to help fund growth.
On Thursday ENH Chairman, Omar Mithá, said that he considered ExxonMobil’s entry a big plus, mainly on account of the company’s global experience in the production and distribution of natural gas.
“We are talking about a major player in the global gas market, so this entry is a clear sign that our country is attractive. It is also expected that the context will
change. At the moment, it is not favorable as there is an excess of supply and because, from a technological point of view, shale gas has been acquiring a certain dominance in the market”, Mithá said.
Mithá denied that ExxonMobil may want to manage its business portfolio, for example delaying projects in Mozambique and moving forward other projects elsewhere in the world.
“These are just rumours. As you know, the development of the areas is guided by a development plan that is bound by decisions taken at the highest level – in this case, the Council of Ministers”, Mithá explained.
He also said that the ExxonMobil acquisition would not delay or complicate the final investment decision, because one of the conditions for approval of the deal by the Mozambican government is meeting deadlines.
“ExxonMobil is already working in Mozambique and we have had regular meetings as partners, first in the fifth tender, which involves fields in Angoche and blocks in Sofala and Zambezi and, second, concerning its entry into Area-4”, Mithá explained, adding that , in the case of Area-4, the US company will anyway have a minority stake. Other stakeholders of Area-4 include Mozambique’s ENH, South Korean KOGAS and Portuguese Galp.
In August sources said it had wrapped up talks to sell a multi-billion-dollar stake in the field to ExxonMobil, adding the deal would not be announced for several months at ExxonMobil’s request.
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