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DNO makes offer for Kurdish rival, Gulf Keystone

Securities firm said the offer might be too little too late given debt restructuring potential.

By Daniel J. Graeber
DNO International offers $300 million for Gulf Keystone Petroleum, a major Iraqi oil player moving through a debt restructuring. Photo courtesy of DNO International.
DNO International offers $300 million for Gulf Keystone Petroleum, a major Iraqi oil player moving through a debt restructuring. Photo courtesy of DNO International.

OSLO, Norway, July 29 (UPI) -- DNO, a Norwegian oil and gas company with strong Iraqi assets, said Friday it made a $300 million bid for Gulf Keystone Petroleum, which is restructuring debt.

DNO said it was offering 40 percent of the full offer in cash, which it said would give investors in Gulf Keystone Petroleum an early out. In mid-July, Gulf Keystone's Chairman Andrew Simon stepped down, opening the door for non-executive director Keith Lough to help steer a debt restructuring. In an outgoing statement, Simon said shareholders and operators in the Kurdish north of Iraq have struggled during an era of lower oil prices, a situation he said was compounded by more than $600 million in debt.

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The company, which lists headquarters in London, is focused on developing the Shaikan oil field in the Kurdish north of Iraq and said restructuring would support near-term plans to raise production from 40,000 barrels of oil per day to 55,000 bpd.

DNO Executive Chairman Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani said combining the companies would establish a stronger corporate presence in the Kurdish north of Iraq.

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"We understand Shaikan's challenges and opportunities and we are well positioned to focus financial, technical, commercial and logistical support to maintain and then grow production at this field to the benefit of both Kurdistan and our investors," he said in a statement.

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DNO holds a majority stake in the Tawke oil field in the Kurdish north of Iraq, which is producing oil at a rate of about 120,000 bpd. Its counterpart uses DNO's unloading and storage facilities to help send Shaikan crude oil out for exports.

Gulf Keystone offered no other comment than to confirm it received the proposal from DNO.

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"The board of Gulf Keystone is currently reviewing this proposal and will update the market on its response in due course," it said in a statement.

Mirabaud Securities said in an emailed statement the bid from DNO was opportunistic and may be coming at the wrong time considering Gulf Keystone's recent actions. The restructuring, it said, could transform the situation for the company in the Kurdish north, where it controls one of the more attractive oil fields.

"Having struggled to get things right for so long, in our view the business now has a real chance of success under its new management," the securities firm said.

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