More interest in Ithaca, bids seen topping C$868 million

Thu Mar 1, 2012 8:21am EST
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By Brenton Cordeiro

(Reuters) - North Sea-focused oil and gas explorer Ithaca Energy Inc IAE.TO IAE.L said it had received unsolicited interest from several parties, which analysts estimate could result in a deal valued at about C$868 million.

The company's board would hold discussions with the interested parties, Ithaca said in a statement, but added that the discussions were still at a preliminary stage.

In January, Ithaca Energy said that it had received a confidential offer to acquire all of its outstanding shares from an unnamed buyer, without disclosing any financial details.

Analysts expect an offer at or above C$3.35 per share -- 18 percent higher than its Wednesday close of C$2.84 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

An offer of C$3.35 per share would value the company at about C$868.2 million.

Ithaca's London-listed shares were up 14 percent at 199.75 pence at 1315 GMT on Thursday.

"We believe Ithaca's appeal to potential acquirers is its strong production growth potential from an operated asset base, supported by existing strong cash flows and a clean balance sheet," James Hosie of RBC Capital Markets said.

The likely bidders include British oil firm EnQuest (ENQ.L: Quote), Abu Dhabi National Energy Co TAQA.AD and privately-owned Dana Petroleum.   Continued...