United Oil and Gas nearing more deals on back of 'transformational' African purchase

Irish exploration company United Oil and Gas is closing in on a number of asset acquisitions on the back of landing a first licence in Africa.

The company, which is active in the UK, Italy and Jamaica, has hailed its expansion into Africa as being potentially "transformational" for the company.

United has signed an option agreement to invest in an onshore licence in Benin. The move will potentially give the Irish company a 20% stake - for a phased payment of just over $1m - of the prospect area operated by west African-focused exploration company Elephant Oil.

"We believe that Benin can be transformational for United," said chief executive Brian Larkin, adding that the company has bought into the licence "at a very small initial commitment".

"As with our assets in Jamaica, the scale of this new licence in Benin, and its proximity to other working hydrocarbon systems, lend it to having huge potential high-impact upside with early data suggesting the presence of numerous large structures," he said.

"This agreement in Benin is additional to our existing pipeline of potential near-term acquisitions and joint ventures," Mr Larkin said.

At the end of last year, United said it was "aggressively" targeting new investment opportunities with an eye on making a "game-changing" purchase during 2019 that "really moves the market cap for the company".

Announcing its African farm-in deal, United said it is progressing on further takeover targets.

"United has, for some time, stated that our technical and commercial teams have been actively assessing a number of new opportunities that are development and production focused," said Mr Larkin.

"A number of these more mature opportunities are under non-disclosure agreements and nearing advanced stages of due diligence and commercial negotiation."

United has a market cap of around €16m and has seen the net present value of its licence portfolio balloon from $6m-$7m to $80m in a little over a year. Despite the latest news, the company's share price fell by nearly 1.5%.

“Our approach for 2019 is dual focused — develop the existing assets as efficiently and effectively as we can and create as much value from them whilst also looking for a game-changing acquisition,” Mr Larkin said in December.

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