Papua New Guinea's Oil Search plans acquisition, seeks trading halt

MELBOURNE Mon Feb 24, 2014 5:53pm EST

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MELBOURNE Feb 25 (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea oil and gas producer Oil Search is working on a significant acquisition, it said on Tuesday, seeking a two-day trading halt on its shares.

Oil Search, with a market value of A$11.5 billion ($10.4 billion), had been due to release its full-year results on Tuesday, but a spokeswoman said that would be delayed, probably until later this week.

"As soon as we have something finalised, we'll release our results and information about the transaction," Oil Search's Investor Relations Manager Ann Diamant said.

Oil Search is set for strong growth starting in the third quarter of 2014, when the $19 billion PNG liquefied natural gas project, 29 percent owned by Oil Search and operated by ExxonMobil, is to start exporting.

Analysts are expecting Oil Search's annual profit to quadruple to more than A$800 million over the next two years.

The company is seen as a potential takeover target for bigger oil companies looking to get a foot into LNG expansion opportunities in Papua New Guinea.

Key to that takeover would be a 15 percent stake currently held by Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), which the PNG government wants to buy back when a five-year A$1.68 billion bond it issued to IPIC expires on March 5.

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