Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Birthday Surprise! Pioneer's Out Of 2 JDZ Blocks As Sinopec Moves In; U.S. Attacks Obasanjo On Third Term; ERHE Dips to $0.321, Recovers To $0.48

The impossibly cumbersome and much-delayed negotiation process for the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Zone - or U.S. meddling in Nigerian elections - has cost the Joint Development Authority yet another big player in addition to Noble Energy and Devon Energy. This time it's Pioneer Natural Resources, whose George Soros - an important minority shareholder - paid for the investigation by Sao Tome of the block negotiations and awards made last May 31.

Pioneer announced via Business Wire this morning that it has given up its operatorship of Block 2 and joint venture with ERHC in 3 as a partner of ERHC Energy. Pioneer shares had lost $1.86 on the news by 10am. Their replacement in the blocks has not yet been announced.

Pioneer Withdraws from Joint Development Zone
2/7/2006 9:00:12 AM
DALLAS, Feb 07, 2006 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Pioneer Natural Resources Company ( PXD ) today announced that its subsidiary, Pioneer Resources Africa Limited, has notified the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority that it is withdrawing from participation in Blocks 2 and 3 of the Joint Development Zone in offshore Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe.

Pioneer is a large independent oil and gas exploration and production company, headquartered in Dallas, with operations in the United States, Canada and Africa. For more information, visit Pioneer's website at www.pxd.com.

SOURCE: Pioneer Natural Resources Company

Pioneer Natural Resources Company, Dallas
Frank Hopkins or Chris Paulsen, 972-444-9001
Media and Public Affairs:
Susan Spratlen, 972-444-9001

And a note from Mutwadadi is unusually circumspect this morning. Asked if he's heard anything abou the goings on at the JDA, he replied:

joe - there is a lot happening, it is significant and i'd like to say more. for the moment, i simply cannot.

For my money, I have a feeling that Nigeria believes Big Oil is trying to control its decisions in the Joint Development Zone, and resents the hell out of it. President Bush complained in a speech two days ago that market instability "is increasing the geopolitical leverage of key producing states." In other words, Africa and Nigeria in particular is coming into its own, and Americans are going to find it painful unless they are well-invested there.

Meanwhile, Joint Development Authority officials told the ever-optimistic Mark St. Amour this morning that Production Sharing Contracts will still be signed for all five blocks awarded last May. "With whom?" One investior asked.

Here's Mark's post:

**** Just spoke with JDA SOURCE****

I asked him about Pioneer. He confirmed. He said all 5 Block PSC's will be signed and to call back in a few hours. I asked how this was possible and he said he was going into JMC meeting and to call back and he could give more details.

But there are still numerous players in the blocks apart from the handful of Nigerian independents whose presence has raised such issues for the majors.

The news had a predictable effect on share price, driving it down from a high yesterday of $0.505 to a low of $0.321. It is currently trading at $0.443 x $0.444 on heavy volume of 10,907,901 shares at 11:55am, recovering sharply from the bad news. Heavy buying has pushed the price up seven cents in the past hour as Sinopec has been named as Pioneer's replacement operator with ERHC.

The ERHC On The Move portfolio is staying put at 75,000 shares.

Meanwhile, U.S. meddling in the internal afffairs of Nigeria has reached a new level with harsh warning frmn the United States yesterday to the current Nigerian President Olusegun Obaanjo about how a third term bid by the crusading president will preciptiate the breakup of Nigeria. Whether that would occur because of American-instigated political manipulation or for internal reasons was left unclear.

The United States apparently fears that U.S. oil companies like ExxonMobil, Anadarko, ChevronTexaco and others will not get a lion's share of oil reserves as they have been accustomed to a Nigeria that has become far less tolerant of corruption under Obasanjo's rule.

Exxon, Pioneer and Devon have all been accused of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in neighboring Equatorial Guinea, and evidence may be emerging from new audits of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that ExxonMobil shortchanged Nigeria on billions in taxes during the rule of dictator Sani Abacha from 1991-96, the period covered by the audit.

It may even be that Pioneer lost its stake in Nigeria's most coveted oil concessions as a result of unfounded attacks by the U.S. on the Obasanjo presidency.

Third Term Could Break Nigeria - U.S.

Daily Trust (Abuja)
February 6, 2006
Posted to the web February 6, 2006
Charles Onunaiju

The United States has warned in strongest terms yet that any attempt at tenure extension by President Olusegun Obasanjo, "could lead to political strife and eventual breakup of the country."

This grim warning was made by U.S. Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, when he testified before the US Senate Committee on Intelligence.

Negroponte was throwing more light on the U.S. "Annual Threat Assessment," conducted by his office.

The Directorate of National Intelligence was created to coordinate intelligence gathering amongst all US agencies after the September 9/11 attack on the United States.

Negroponte's chilling comment came two days after President George W. Bush called for the US to end its "addiction to oil". He said the combination of rising demand for energy and instability in oil-producing regions, "is increasing the geopolitical leverage of key producing states".

Negroponte said that the 2007 elections in Nigeria would be the most important election on the African horizon.

The vote, he said, has the potential to reinforce a democratic trend away from military rule - or it could lead to major disruption in a nation suffering "frequent ethno-religious violence, criminal activities, and rampant corruption."

He said that speculations that President Obasanjo would try to amend the constitution to attain a third term in office was raising political tensions and if proven true, threatens to unleash a major turmoil and conflict.

"Such chaos in Nigeria could lead to disruption of oil supply, secessionist moves by regional governments, major refugee flow and instability elsewhere in West Africa," Negroponte said.

However, he stated that, "some good news is coming out of Africa" but warned that the continent remains a potential recruiting ground for terrorists.

"In much of the continent, humanitarian crises, instability and conflicts persist. Overlaying these enduring threats are the potential spread of Jihadist ideology among disaffected Muslim populations and the region's growing importance as a source of energy. We are most concerned about Sudan and Nigeria."

This is the third time this year the US is making strident attacks on alleged tenure extension plan in Nigeria.

At the beginning of the year, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen, expressed US opposition to tenure extension for President Olusegun Obasanjo.

"There must be a change in Nigeria now, so someone new can come in and move the anti-corruption progra-mme forward," Cohen had said.

Earlier, the US official position on President Obasanjo's alleged tenure extension was again voiced by the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, who had said though President Obasanjo had not officially declared his intention, but that there was need to respect term limits.

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