ABUJA/LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - Nigerian firms Taleveras and Aiteo have made the highest bid of $2.85 billion for the biggest of four Shell assets up for sale, but the oil major is holding out while it tries to persuade them to team up with Seplat, an existing operator.
Several oil industry sources told Reuters that, although there is little doubt the duo can raise cash for the block, Shell is concerned about the reputational risk of selling it to two exporters of crude and importers of gasoline that have no previous experience in running producing oil assets.
Shell is divesting its 30 percent stake in four Nigerian oil blocks, with France's Total and Italy's Eni also set to profit from their 10 percent and 5 percent shares. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) owns the remaining 55 percent.
As well as being an existing operator, Seplat is set to list its shares in London and Lagos next month.
Shell declined to comment. Taleveras, Aiteo and Seplat did not respond to requests for comment. Bidders are bound by confidentiality clauses.
Winners are expected to be announced next month.
Choosing the right buyer, rather than the highest bidder, can be crucial to securing sales, in a country where political influence can decide deals and legal disputes or financial problems can scupper them.
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