China Petrochemical Corp, the nation's second biggest oil producer and the largest oil refiner, is reportedly sizing up Africa- and Latin America-focused French mid-size oil and gas producer Maurel & Prom as a potential acquisition target.
Bloomberg quoted sources as saying that China Petrochemical, parent of listed China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec), had held informal talks with Maurel in the past year, although barriers to a deal - estimated to be worth US$2 billion - remained. Maurel and China Petrochemical's spokespersons could not be reached.
State-backed China Petrochemical and rival PetroChina have both indicated a target to at least double overseas output in 2015 from last year. They have adopted a global expansion strategy to secure access to overseas resources and growth as they struggled to raise domestic output amid rising demand.
Maurel's market value is around €1.3 billion (HK$13 billion). Its share price has fallen 8.7 per cent so far this year, compared with a gain of 8.5 per cent of the benchmark CAC 40 index.
Maurel operates in 10 nations, with oil and gas output of 6.6 million barrels last year from Gabon in Africa. It planned to raise output by 23.4 per cent this year, mostly from the addition of output from Colombia.
It had proved and probable oil and gas reserves of 240 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) at the end of last year, of which 77 per cent is oil and 23 per cent is natural gas. It has exploration projects in Gabon, Tanzania, Congo, Namibia, Peru and Colombia. Last year it made a net profit of €164.6 million on revenue of €373.6 million.
Maurel is small relative to China Petrochemical, which last year produced 407.9 million boe of oil and gas, with recoverable reserves of 3.97 billion boe at the end of last year. Some 18.4 million barrels, or 5.7 per cent of its oil output, came from Africa.
Reuters reported that Maurel chief Jean-Francois Henin, who owns 24 per cent of Maurel, last June denied a report that it was approached by United States oil firm Anadarko Petroleum about a possible takeover, and that it had been in contact with Royal Dutch/Shell on the same.
But he added that he was open to selling the firm at the right price provided certain unspecified conditions are met.