LONDON - U.K. regulator, the Takeover Panel, Friday waded into the takeover battle between Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production PCL over Africa-focused Cove Energy PLC, giving the companies a deadline of July 16 to make their final offers.
If no offer is accepted by this date, the sale of Cove will be decided by an auction on July 17, the Takeover Panel said in a statement. The regulator's intervention will draw to a close a months-long contest between the two companies for the prize of potentially-lucrative natural gas discoveries in Africa.
Cove's main asset is an 8.5% stake in a gas discovery off Mozambique's coast. It also has interests in Kenya and Tanzania. An acquisition of Cove, a modestly-sized exploration company listed on London's junior exchange, is seen as particularly desirable as it would offer energy companies a speedy way to gain a foothold in the region.
However, to date, neither Shell nor PTT has managed to gain a substantial proportion of acceptances from shareholders, despite both contenders repeatedly extending the deadline on their offers.
On Monday, PTT said it had received acceptances from just 0.25% of Cove's investors for its offer of 240 pence a share, while Shell has said its 220 pence-a-share offer has been accepted by 3.27% of shareholders. Cove's board has recommended the PTT offer.
Under an auction process, Shell and PTT would be permitted to submit revised offers on a daily basis, provided both companies change their terms. If neither party revises its offer on July 17, the auction would end that day.
Shell, PTT and Cove have all agreed to these terms, the Takeover Panel said.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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