* Al Mirqab is investment fund of former QIA CEO
* Offers 320 pence per share, 25 premium
* Heritage founder to remain invested
* Shares soar 22 pct
(Adds analyst comment, share price, background)
By Sarah Young
LONDON, April 30 British oil company Heritage
Oil agreed a 924 million pound ($1.6 billion) takeover
offer from a fund owned by the former chief executive of Qatar's
sovereign wealth fund.
Heritage, whose main oil production is in Nigeria, said on
Wednesday it was recommending a 320 pence per share cash offer,
which represented a 25 percent premium to its closing price the
day before the approach was announced.
Its suitor, Al Mirqab Capital, is the private investment
vehicle of Qatar's Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani
and his family.
Sheikh Hamad, who was chief executive of the Qatar
Investment Authority until last year, is regarded as the driving
force behind the emergence of the Gulf Arab state's sovereign
wealth fund as one of the world's most sought-after investors,
scooping up stakes in bluechip companies, luxury brands and
prime real estate.
Heritage's largest shareholder, former mercenary Anthony
Buckingham who owns 34 percent of the FTSE 250 company, has
entered into an agreement with Al Mirqab to retain a 20 percent
stake of Heritage for five years under its new ownership.
Over the last month, the oil sector has seen signs that deal
activity is picking up.
Mining company Glencore Xstrata said it agreed to
buy Chad-focused oil firm Caracal Energy for about 800
Two FTSE 250 oil companies were also recently involved in a
potential merger when Ophir Energy had two bid
approaches rejected by Premier Oil.
Shares in Heritage, which before opening on Wednesday had
risen about 50 percent over the previous 12 months, were up 22
percent to 312.4 pence at 0756 GMT.
Analysts said the deal was positive for the exploration and
Afren, whose main operations are also in Nigeria,
traded up 3.5 percent, while Ophir was 4 percent higher.
"It's a welcome shot in the arm in terms of valuations.
There is a theme. Companies which are oil and are relatively
simpler operations, that is, they're onshore rather than
offshore, they are appealing to people," Royal Bank of Canada
analyst Al Stanton said.
Companies with onshore oil operations, look relatively cheap
and have a major shareholder include Kurdistan-focused DNO
and Albania-focused Bankers Petroleum, Stanton
Al Mirqab is interested in accessing Heritage's growing oil
output in Nigeria and its exploration portfolio which includes
areas in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea.
Jersey-based Heritage bought into a Nigerian oilfield which
had been owned by oil major Shell in a $850 million
deal in 2012 while it sold out of a gas field it had discovered
in Kurdistan. It had previously sold oil fields it had found in
Heritage was founded by Buckingham, a former North Sea diver
who went on to provide mercenary fighters in Africa when he was
a partner in the military contracting firm Executive Outcomes.
Still subject to shareholder approval, Heritage's takeover
has been recommended by a board which excludes Buckingham, the
company's chief executive, as he has been deemed to be acting in
concert with the Qatari fund due to his plan to remain invested.
($1 = 0.5936 British Pounds)
(Editing by Kate Holton and Jason Neely)