PTT extends Cove offer for third time

Thai oil firm PTT Exploration and Production extended for a third time the deadline for investors to accept its $1.9bn (£1.2bn) offer for gas explorer Cove Energy on Monday, as the battle with rival suitor Shell nears a conclusion.

Analysts had expected PTT to extend its offer as investors wait to see what Shell will do in the battle for Cove's huge east African gas finds. The two firms could be heading into the first formal takeover auction for a listed British company since 2008.

Britain's takeover watchdog ruled on Friday that if neither suitor declared its current offer final before 1600 GMT on Monday, an auction would start the next day, which could see them submit bids to daily deadlines until a winner is found.

If Shell and PTT don't submit revised offers on Tuesday, their current bids will be regarded as final and there will be no auction.

PTT said the offer had been extended and would remain open until the next closing date on 25vJuly, after it won acceptances from only 0.25 per cent of Cove shares.

The two companies have been battling to buy Cove since February, attracted by the company's position in huge gas fields discovered off the coast of Mozambique which look set to transform the East African country into a major supplier of energy to Asia.