Two reports from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) have referred in recent days to a bidder that it identifies as "ECI" in the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Zone'a second licensing round.
However, in the list of companies provided by the Dow Jones News Service after bidders were revealed on Dec. 15, there was no ECI - but there was an "ECL."
Now the news agency has twice indicated that along with ERHC and its partners and Anadarko, "ECI" may be a winner of one of the block awards when the announcement come at the end of January.
There is an oil company known as ECL, and there are two known as ECI.
The company identified as ECL bid $175 million for Block 4, vastly outstripping the ERHC bid of $57.285 million and Anadarko's $90 million bid. But is ECL a real player? NAN said it had extensive deepwater experience. It incorrectly said the same of ERHC, which does have partners with tons of it, however.
One "ECI" company, of course, could be Exxon Corporation International. Another possibility is Edward Callan Interests, a player in South American fields, particularly in Peru.
But late word has it that ExxonMobil will not play at all in the blocks to be awarded this month. It had earlier balked at signing a Production Sharing Contract, reportedly after a "transparency" clause required of all contractors in the JDZ was enacted into law by the Sao Tome and Principe Parliament.
Is ExxonMobil playing a very clever game, in which investors are led to believe that XOM is not in the running for Blocks 2 through 5 when, in fact, its ECI subsidiary is very much in the running? And could the multinational oil giant again deny an operatorship to ERHC?
The Nigerian Chancery in Washington could not be reached for comment. The ERHC Website was down. The Nigerian consulate in New York did not answer its telephone. The News Agency of Nigeria has no Website, per Google. Abuja is closed for the day, as is Lagos. ERHC's favored correspondents did not respond to questions.
Meanwhile, trading in ERHC has slowed to a crawl, after more than 2,600,000 shares moved earlier in the day. The share price has fallen from a high of .58 this morning to .525, and 12 straight trades have gone off at that price, $.045 below the open.
Is there a problem? No one wants to talk about it late this afternoon... .