Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Has SNP Acquired Chrome's Interest In ERHC?

Anyone watching the meteoric rise of Sinopec NYSE: SNP), our partner in Blocks 2, 3 and 4 of the Nigeria-Sao Tome Joint Development Zone, has to wonder what's driving the stock's price - it's been up about $25 since last Friday, and is up $17 today to about $171.

As I thought about it, I realized that when Sir Emeka Offor transferred all of his 42% holdings in ERHC Energy (OTCBB: ERHE) to Chrome, Inc., his wholly-owned trading Cayman Islands holding company, he would be free to make any deal he wished with Sinopec with respect to those holdings.

Here's how that would work: He could sell out to Sinopec and simply not promptly or formally notify the officers of ERHC Energy until the very last moment. ERHC would have a reporting requirement if it were officially aware of the sale. But Cayman Islands law would not require Mr. Offor to notify ERHC, and since it would only drive up the stock price, he would have no motive to do so until the very last minute since he is no longer an officer or director of the company.

Sinopec, and indeed all of the Chinese-held oil companies, have stated openly that they are interested in expanding their ties to oil resources in Africa. What could be a better acquisition than ERHC's substantial share of equity in those blocks and others? Acquiring them at a fixed cost from Mr. Offor would save them a frenzy that might drive ERHE shares through the roof, but with First Atlantic Bank's shares would give them controlling interest in the company.

He has told us, however, that he hoped to enhance the value of his shares, and an ERHE-for-SNP stock swap would have accomplished that with no one being the wiser. The price of SNP is up $105 dollars over the past 52 weeks.

SNP would have been required to report the swap at some point, but when? Typically, a reporting company that acquires greater than 5% of the outstanding shares of another publicly-held company is required to report the acquisition within 10 days of doing so; if this swap occurred in recent days, driving the huge price spike, an announcement may be forthcoming.

This is pure speculation. However, under such a circumstance, it is unclear what value the remaining investor-held shares of ERHC Energy would have. I would like to invite discussion on this issue.

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