PARIS, Aug 28 (Reuters) - French energy exploration and production company Maurel & Prom said it was reabsorbing its former Nigerian unit MPI as a first step towards tripling in size to cope with the impact of a plunge in the oil price.
Maurel & Prom said on Thursday it was buying MPI in a deal that would give MPI investors one Maurel & Prom share for two shares held. MPI would also pay a 0.45 euro exceptional cash dividend per share before the merger.
Chief Executive Jean-Francois Henin said on Friday that the group would work intensively in the coming weeks to secure another deal with a competitor of its stature.
"Companies the size of MPI, or MPI plus Maurel & Prom, are no longer big enough to remain independent," Henin said. "We can survive, but in terms of the future for our shareholders, it's absolutely necessary to build a larger, more diversified group."
Maurel & Prom and MPI face a tough macroeconomic environment following a 60 percent drop in oil prices in the last year. They see expansion as the route to better access to financing and greater opportunities for external growth.
"Everyone is talking to everyone, because everyone feels the same need," Henin said. "All players in the sector today are considering how to combine forces with someone else and what are the best possible combinations."
The world's top oilfield services provider, Schlumberger , said this week it would buy equipment maker Cameron International for $14.8 billion to offer a broader range of products at lower prices to oil companies slashing budgets.
Its rivals Halliburton and Baker Hughes announced a $35 billion tie-up last November.
Maurel & Prom said the MPI deal, due to be completed in December, would add Nigeria to its operations in Gabon and Tanzania, giving it presence in three key sub-Saharan oil and gas countries. MPI also had a "strong cash position" with no debt, it said.
The combined company would have an enterprise value close to $2 billion, the industry's fourth largest after Tullow Oil, Premier Oil and Genel Energy, or the fifth-biggest by market capitalisation, Maurel & Prom said.
The deal was unanimously approved by the boards of Maurel & Prom and MPI, and will be put to a shareholders' vote in December.
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by James Regan; Editing by Jan Lopatka)
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