Substantial progress has yet to be made by ExxonMobil in farming out its 25% priority stake in two of these blocks, although contact has been made with both Devon Energy and Pioneer Natural Resources for this purpose. US minnow ERHC Energy, Pioneer and Devon Energy are seeking to secure joint operatorship in blocks-2 & 3, although several consortia bid higher, and the same line-up is tipped to secure block-3 where competition was more muted.
A mild note on Barry's piece: He reported our consortium was bidding in Blocks 2 and 3, and then (redundantly) said we were also bidding in Block 3. It's worth noting that a different consortium, composed of Noble Drilling and ERHC, is seeking Block 4.
Under ordinary circumstances, the prospect of our partners getting operatorship would drive our share price through the roof, yet it has fallen slightly today and never rose above yesterday's close.
Barry also took late note of Equator Exploration's MOU with India's huge Reliance Group subsidiary, ONGC Videsh, which was concluded last month. Since that time, Equator's share price has fallen from 107.5 pence all they way to 82.5 pence, but was slightly higher at 91.05 tonight (two insider blocks totaling 450,000 shares traded on the AMI (London) exchange late Thursday).
Arguably, that price dip occurred due to the appearance that EEL's bid in one block fell well short of its competitors'. It might be an error to conclude they are out of the picture, however; they have raised $120 million to pursue a prize in the JDZ and will have $60 million left if they get one.
Some will recall that I reacted to news of the EEL entry by suggesting strongly that due to Emeka Offor's former employment of EEL's principal, Wade Cherwayko, EEL may well be the party seeking control of ERHC. That now appears less likely, and my own thoughts are focused today on Devon and Pioneer or Noble, perhaps Amerada Hess, and the original Texas oilmen led by oilman Philip Nugent of Houston, or some trifecta of the First Atlantic Bank and two or three of the above. A JV deal between XOM and Devon that encompassed Devon's MOU with Pioneer and (by extension) Pioneer's with ERHC might even allow XOM to become a controlling party down the line - if Devon buys us out.
While my claim that a buyout is in the offing was derided, in fact the Los Angeles Times suggested that one would happen around now in its May 2003 article on ERHC. The company, in a recent filing, also noted that its share price was being affected by machinations on the OTC BB over which it had no control.