Talisman founding CEO cheers prospect of Repsol takeover

CALGARY Alberta Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:03pm EDT

Jim Buckee talks to reporters at a press conference after the company's annual general meeting in Calgary, Alberta May 9, 2007. REUTERS/Todd Korol

Jim Buckee talks to reporters at a press conference after the company's annual general meeting in Calgary, Alberta May 9, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Todd Korol

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CALGARY Alberta (Reuters) - Talisman Energy Inc's founding chief executive said on Friday he hopes Repsol SA successfully acquires the Canadian company he built into an international oil player because the Spanish oil major can make the best use of Talisman's worldwide assets.

Jim Buckee, who became chief executive of Talisman when BP Plc spun off its Canadian assets in 1992 and built it into one of Canada's largest oil companies through a series of acquisitions, said that a takeover might be the best outcome for the company he ran until he retired in 2007.

"I hope it goes through with Repsol. They're a reputable world player and Talisman sure needs something .. They lost the plot somewhere," Buckee told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in England.

Talisman, Canada's fifth-largest independent oil producer, said earlier this week it had been "approached by Repsol with regards to various transactions", pushing its shares up by more than 11 percent after touching a

52-week low of C$10.48 just before the news broke.

The Toronto-listed shares were down 0.5 percent at C$11.70 by midafternoon on Friday.

The Canadian company has long been considered a takeover target as low natural-gas prices and problems with its North Sea operations lowered profits and its share price. It is now restructuring, trimming operations and staff to cut debt and assuage disgruntled shareholders and activist investors such as Carl Icahn.

Buckee, who no longer has formal ties to the company but still owns about 200,000 Talisman shares, said it has been hampered by a series of strategic mistakes following his departure.

In particular, he says, the 2012 decision to put Talisman's troubled North Sea operations into a joint venture with China's Sinopec had effectively "sterilized the asset" while its push into shale gas came too late and made the company too dependent on North American natural gas.

Talisman "got rid of a bunch of oil assets and went big into the unconventional which was a bit unfortunate because everyone else did that at the same time," he said.

"If you become a one-trick pony then you live and die by that. And that's not necessarily the right thing to do."

However Buckee, who claims no inside knowledge, said he believes Repsol may be interested in Talisman for its North American shale assets and their potential to supply liquefied natural-gas plants.

"My guess is that Repsol sees an easy way to get a big foothold in North American unconventional (gas). And I'd think Repsol has one eye on the LNG game too, because it's quite an international player, and Talisman will give you a lot of access to unconventional gas ... What they'll do with the other bits, I don't know."

Talisman could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; editing by Andrew Hay)

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