Ophir in £150m placing to fund its African plan

AFRICA-FOCUSED oil and gas firm Ophir Energy yesterday raised £150m in a placing to fund three exploratory wells on blocks in Tanzania and Kenya, and aims to acquire additional blocks in the region.

The company successfully placed 30.5m new shares priced at 495p each.

The placing will bolster the firm’s strong cash position, giving it an estimated £400m in total.

East Africa has been a focus for exploration since substantial deposits of crude were found in Uganda in 2006. This week’s announcement by Tullow Oil that oil had been struck in Kenya for the first time has also fuelled interest.

Ophir Energy has a 70 per cent interest in Tanzania’s coastal East Pande Block and an 80 per cent interest in Block 7 and is the operator in both of them. The funding was arranged by a JP Morgan Cazenove led consortium, which also includes RBC Capital and Oriel Securities.

“[The placing] will allow Ophir to maintain its current equity position in the Block 1, 3, 4 JV with BG while we continue to investigate the world-class potential of this asset base,” Ophir chief executive Nick Cooper said yesterday.

“At the same time we plan to introduce industry partners into our operated East African positions during the second half of 2012 and are preparing for a first quarter 2013 East African programme on our operated acreage in Block 7, East Pande and L-09.”

Ophir’s shares closed almost seven pence higher at 495p yesterday as investors reacted well to the placing.