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Italian oil giant to explore in Ghana, Uganda and Congo

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Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil producer, may start exploration in Ghana, Uganda and Congo after several companies made discoveries in the African nations, analysts said.

Eni’s Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni this week held meetings with Ghanaian President John Atta Mills and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the company said on its Web site. Eni executives also signed a “strategic agreement” with the Democratic Republic of Congo, it said. The Rome-based company doesn’t currently operate in the three countries.

Scaroni is “offering the services of Eni,” Jason Kenney, an analyst at ING Wholesale Banking, said today by telephone. “Some of these countries have resources, which are going to be needed to be exploited in the not-too-distant future.”

Eni operates in 13 African nations, including the continent’s largest oil producers, Nigeria and Angola. BP Plc and Tullow Oil Plc are among companies reporting oil and natural-gas discoveries in Angola, Ghana and other African states in the last several years.

“The meetings have stressed Eni’s long history of working in the region and the technical and commercial skills it can bring to the aid of the host governments,” Keith Morris and Richard Griffith, London-based analysts at Evolution Securities Ltd., said today in an e-mailed note. “The projects in Ghana and Uganda are material in scale to interest Eni and other international oil companies.”

Africa Acquisitions

Scaroni’s tour may mean Eni is preparing for a takeover bid or seeking a partner, the Evolution analysts said.

Eni paid more than $850 million for First Calgary Petroleums Ltd. in September to gain oil and gas fields in Algeria and $3.4 billion for Burren Energy Plc in 2007, which owned assets in the Republic of Congo. The Italian company has spent at least $14 billion on acquisitions in the past decade.

Eni is also present in Nigeria, Gabon and Mozambique, and pumps 450,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in the Sub-Saharan region, according to company data.

“The Gulf of Guinea has a long-term resource potential,” ING’s Kenney said. “In the West Africa margin, as you go across towards Cote d’Ivoire, there’s potential, good geological reasoning to think there could be extensions of quite prolific basins.”

Tullow and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., along with larger competitors such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc, are expanding the search for oil offshore West Africa.

Source: Bloomberg

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