TORONTO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Canada’s Whitecap Resources Inc (WCP.TO) and at least three other companies have submitted final-round bids for Cenovus Energy Inc’s (CVE.TO) Weyburn oil facility in a deal that could fetch about C$1 billion ($782 million), people familiar with the situation said on Tuesday.
NAL Resources Management Ltd, a unit of insurer Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO), Cona Resources Ltd CONA.TO and Spartan Energy Corp SPE.TO are among other suitors to place final bids, the people added, declining to be named as the matter is not yet public.
Whitecap is the front runner for the asset, one of the people said.
Cenovus has been selling assets to pay down debt used to fund its C$16.8 billion acquisition of some ConocoPhillips (COP.N) assets earlier this year. The Weyburn sale would bring Cenovus’ asset sale proceeds to about C$4 billion compared with its target of C$4 billion to C$5 billion in asset sales.
To finance the acquisition, Whitecap is looking to raise about C$700 million through a share sale and fund the rest through debt, the people said.
Whitecap shares closed down 1.5 percent on Tuesday. Cenovus shares, which were trading down 0.4 percent before the Reuters story, closed up 0.4 percent.
Cenovus spokeswoman Sonja Franklin declined to comment. Whitecap, NAL, Cona and Spartan did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters seeking comment.
Located in southern Saskatchewan, the Weyburn enhanced oil recovery facility uses carbon dioxide to boost crude output. Cenovus owns a 62 percent working interest in the project and operates the overall facility on behalf of 24 partners, according to its website.
Weyburn was expected to be attractive because of its light oil output and low decline, long-life characteristics. Cenovus previously said it expected to sell Weyburn by the end of the year.
Investors have been closely watching Cenovus’ asset sales process as the ConocoPhillips deal attracted the irk of shareholders and eventually led to Cenovus’ naming Alex Pourbaix, a former executive at TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO), as its chief executive officer, replacing Brian Ferguson, who led the debt-fueled acquisition of ConocoPhillips assets.
Cenovus so far has sold assets in Palliser, Pelican Lake and Suffield for a combined value of C$2.8 billion. The company may also sell a portion of its Deep Basin business and is talking to potential buyers, the people said.
Reporting by John Tilak in Toronto, David French in New York and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Denny Thomas and Leslie Adler