Shell again extends its offer deadline in bid to buy Cove

City A.M. Reporter
OIL major Shell again extended a deadline for Cove Energy shareholders to accept its $1.8bn (£1.1bn) takeover offer, leaving the way open to trump a higher bid from rival Thai group PTT Exploration and Production.

The two suitors 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.

Shell said yesterday that it was extending the deadline for Cove shareholders to accept its bid for a third time to 11 July, following PTT’s move on Monday to extend to 6 July the cut-off date for investors to accept its $1.9bn offer. Investors are still betting that Shell, keen to establish a presence in the world’s next biggest gas frontier in East Africa, will raise its offer for Cove.

Under British takeover rules, Shell has until 17 July to launch a higher offer. Investec analyst Stuart Joyner said Shell was likely to raise its offer. The further extension of the offer was expected, given the timetable.

“Why fold and why raise when you’ve got another three weeks? I’d have been very surprised at any other outcome. As with all these things, why not wait until as late as possible? The reason being, is that gives your opponent the least ability to respond,” he said. Up to 100 trillion cubic feet of gas – enough to supply Germany, Britain, France and Italy for a decade – have been discovered off the coast of Mozambique in the last two years with forecasts that $50bn could flow into the country to help develop the resources to turn the country into a gas exporter to energy-hungry Asia.